Nowadays, the statement that ‘a woman’s place is in the home’ is met with the utmost disdain.
Females have endured a hard-fought battle over the last 100 years to secure equality in both a political sense and domestically. However, it seems the battle is still ongoing in the workplace, as Deloitte reports women represent only 12 per cent of seats on the world’s corporate boards.
While these figures make alarming reading, thankfully in the North East – and the UK as a whole – women are becoming more of the driving force behind some of our most high-profile companies.
According to a survey carried out by The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (our governing body), in the UK, 34.8 per cent of women who work in business hold senior positions, a figure higher than the EU average of 33 per cent. The rise of women in leadership roles goes even further in Fortune 500 companies, as a study conducted by Fortune states that currently 27 companies on the list are led by women. By 2018, it is predicted that more than five per cent of CEOs on the list will be women.
A recent Financial Times study found that since 2010, companies with women in their board room, delivered a 36 per cent better return than those without. Ultimately, this has led to better economic stability, a greater number of opportunities for job seekers, increased productivity and more development in the workplace.
So, what is the cause of this shift? Is it down to attitude, skills or a mixture of both? It is thought that women have more effective ‘softer skills’ than men and therefore possess stronger communication and listening skills. In positions of leadership, these skills are essential when dealing with both customers and employees. Women are also recognised as having higher levels of emotional intelligence and are better equipped at building and fostering relationships, as well as resolving conflicts which, as we all know, do occur in the workplace.
Evidence also indicates that a female’s strength is the ability to remain calm in times of crisis. High-level companies which advocate women as leaders have fared better in times of financial crisis – an issue we could face again with a hard Brexit expected in the coming years.
Some of the most recognisable brands in the North East – including Virgin Money, Barbour, Ubisoft and Northumbrian Water – are led by women.
My mother established Westray Recruitment Consultants back in 1990 and I’m extremely proud to be the next female leader of the business, in a region where there are so many strong and powerful businesswomen supporting each other and achieving amazing things.
I’ve worked in my family business since the age of 16, but recruitment has been in my bones since birth. I grew up watching my mother work and always knew that a career in business was the way forward.
One thing I realised was that to be successful in recruitment, you need to have a solid network of contacts. I had to step outside of my comfort zone and attend networking events and meetings with some of the region’s leading business men and women. Initially, I lacked self-confidence. I’d ask myself, ‘why would anyone want to speak to an inexperienced 21-year-old girl?’. But I soon realised that there is a ‘person’ behind any leader, and the North East has an exceptional business community all geared towards supporting and mentoring one another.
This is why I love that Westray’s roots are firmly planted in the North East. We have a thriving business community here that, despite the economic uncertainty surrounding Brexit, continues to do well and is attracting foreign direct investment, and I’m proud to be part of this.