I was recently asked to write a short article on “my secret business weapon”. Previous feature contributors have praised the virtues of a sense of humour, an iPhone, great luggage and even a supportive family to aid their position in the corporate world. For me however it was an easy choice – “big ears”. Not the best friend of that famous Enid Blyton character Noddy, but those often underused, undervalued organs stuck to the side of our heads. I must also clarify that when I say “big ears” I do mean in the metaphorical sense for I believe the art of listening, truly listening to those around you, and the ability to keep an open mind while not necessarily completely agreeing, is an important asset in today’s world of business.
As a manager of a team of 40 I remind myself daily to keep those “big ears” open. Women generally, I would propose, are more likely to listen to what is being said around them, more aware of their surroundings and more open to reading situations. And here’s the controversial bit. I do think women are able to “multitask” more readily than their male counterparts. DNA, lifestyle or just good fortune – whatever the reason it is well documented that women are the masters at juggling. As a result they remain an important element of a modern business community.
So why then, I ask, do many businesses today find themselves underrepresented by women at a senior level? There is compelling evidence that having greater diversity of thinking and talent in a management team, and in organisations overall, leads to better performance. The Scottish Government highlights that a fair and prosperous Scotland has no ceiling for ambition and talent and opportunities for all to flourish. It argues that Scotland will better outperform its rivals by simply making the best use of the talents it has at its disposal and is encouraging public, private and third sector organisations to sign up to the Partnership for Change, to set a voluntary commitment for gender balance on their boards of 50/50 by 2020.
VisitScotland recognises that equality and diversity are key to Scotland’s success and its appointment of four women to the board in January reflect this. The Marketing Society Scotland also supports this initiative, recognising in particular a gender imbalance at a senior level in marketing across Scotland. It is now working with its members to develop a programme of initiatives that challenge this imbalance.
The Marketing Society Scotland is set to launch its innovative “Talent Exchange” programme, facilitating the secondment of talent, at all levels, within member organisations. This will help all members, not just women, gain new skills, develop networks, improve confidence and expand their career development. Companies supporting secondments will in return gain from improved morale and be seen as an employer that promotes and supports talent development.
The Marketing Society Scotland facilitates the regular meeting of women in marketing. Not an overtly feminist forum, this is simply a chance for key issues affecting women to be discussed. Note this is not necessarily a female only group; its doors are wide open to all to attend. There is just one stipulation. To ensure a fair and balanced discussion it is essential that you bring your “big ears”.
• Helen Campbell is Head of Global Brand and Marketing Communications at VisitScotland and Chair of The Marketing Society Scotland. www.marketingsociety.com Helen is speaking at the Inspiring Women conference at the EICC on March 17. www.managagementtoday.co.uk