The right gender balance is a matter for business

Heather Jackson
Heather Jackson
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Getting the gender balance right is a business issue and not a governmental one, according to an expert on gender equality.

Heather Jackson, founder and chair of An Inspirational Journey, a multi-platformed organisation that focuses on gender imbalances in the workplace, said that quotas don’t necessarily help tackle the issue.

Ms Jackson told The Yorkshire Post: “Quotas are a reactive model, they’re not a proactive model.

“A quota is government intervention when this is a business issue that needs to be business led. Any company worth its weight in gold, that wants to be competitive has got to get on this agenda.

“I think quotas almost drive tokenism as well. When this has never been about replacing great men with average women, it’s about replacing average men with great women.”

Ms Jackson is also the founder of Balanced Business Forum, formerly The Women’s Business Forum.

This year the forum, being held at the Sofitel Hotel, London Heathrow, will host some big name speakers, from Sir Mike Rake, chairman of BT Group, to Fiona Dawson, global president of Mars Food.

Ms Jackson said: “It started in Yorkshire five years ago, for the last two years it has been in London. We attract such global organisations now that they need to fly into Heathrow.”

The purpose of the forum is to take the issue of gender equality and greater diversity away from the HR agenda and put it on every leader’s agenda says Ms Jack- son.

She added that having a more diverse team helps when it comes to performance of a business as well.

Ms Jackson said that it isn’t hard to change attitudes towards gender equality but trying to change the culture of a business can be difficult.

She said: “I don’t think it’s hard to change attitudes when you get businesses cases like the report that shows gender and diversity throughout an organisation quadruples innovation, trebles company performance.

“When you start looking at it like that it becomes a no-brainer.

“What I do think is hard to do is change culture. Culture takes time, effort and persistence and you are going to have times where, to go forward, you have to take a few steps back.”

Ms Jackson called on businesses within the region to do more to promote diversity.

“Companies like Asda and Pace are doing exceptionally well, but they’re few and far between,” she said.

“We do need more regional organisations to absolutely realise this isn’t a City centric issue,” added Ms Jackson.

Despite the need to do more Ms Jackson said that progress is being made when it comes to gender equality.

She said: “I actually think that we’re building an environment now where more men and women have control and choice of where they go and where they take their careers.

“It is going to take time but you’ve only got to take a look at the results over the last five years. Five years ago there was only 12.5 per cent of women on FTSE 100 boards today there’s 23.5 per cent.

“Yes progression isn’t as fast as everyone would like but actually it’s still going in the right direction which is the main thing.”

The Balanced Business Forum takes place at the Sofitel Hotel on October 12 and 13.