Times are changing in the business world; not just among multinational organisations where more and more women are being elected to boardrooms in executive and non-executive positions, but also in the leadership of SMEs where women are being found at the helm far more often. There seems to be a shift in attitudes towards women business leaders, even since the beginning of this decade. In 2011 a report by Lord Davies of Abersoch condemned the underrepresentation of women in the boardroom, recommending government sanctions if there more wasn’t done in the following five years to double the number of women’s positions.
Perhaps it needed a little push like that to give more women the chance to show what they can do. Breaking into the “old boys club” was never going to be easy but once they had their foot in the door then the glass ceiling began to crack. As soon as they were able to demonstrate their true capabilities, and that they were at least the equal of their male counterparts, they were taken more seriously and accepted.
Here RecruitsME talks to Teresa Budworth, CEO of NEBOSH (The National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health):
What have you achieved since taking your current position?
I have been CEO of my organisation for 11 years. In that time I have grown the business from 25 employees to 105, increased the turnover from £1.5 million to nearly £10m, and increased our overseas business from less than 5% to more than 70%. We received the Queens Award for Enterprise for Outstanding Achievement in International Trade in recognition of that in 2014.
How have attitudes towards women in the business community changed since you began your career?
The world is different to 30 odd years ago when I started work. There are more women in leadership positions and it's not considered odd.
Do you think women in leadership positions bring something different to the business?
It depends on the woman. The basic disciplines of ensuring you plan, budget, monitor progress etc. are essential to succeed whoever is in charge. I think there is more emphasis in the world of work in general on emotional intelligence, collaboration and supporting your staff in difficult times, which are considered more feminine traits, but actually many of the men I have worked with ace in these areas.
What is most important to you in terms of encouraging women with families to succeed?
It's important to me that we nurture talent. That means being open to flexible working patterns to ensure that employees can combine their career with their family commitments. Why waste talent and essential skills by insisting that people need to be there full time? My head of marketing that I’ve worked with for the whole of my tenure initially did 3 days a week, but achieved more in those three days than most staff do in a fortnight. Now she has a contract that means she works shorter hours in school holidays. It works for her, and it works for the business.
Women as entrepreneurs, business leaders, CEOs, innovators, decision takers and change makers is becoming a more common sight all over the UK and ushers in a welcome change in attitude towards them – not just from men but from other women too. Seeing women as successful role models encourages others to take up the baton being passed to them and take the necessary strides towards their own success in business.
To move forward we really need to get past this “Women are from Venus/Men are from Mars” nonsense. There should be no separate distinction between men and women in business; if they are equally capable then they should be recognised equally as business people.
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