Today Downtown Liverpool in Business will host one of my favourite events of the year, the annual Women in Business Awards.
Yesterday, of course, it was International Women’s Day, so it is great that we can celebrate the best female business talent in the city this afternoon.
Reflecting on the women in business agenda, and the wider diversity agenda that has been the focus of so much negative news of late, it would be easy to get slightly depressed about the lack of progress that has been made in this arena.
However, I would prefer to focus on the positives, and explain why I am optimistic about greater equality and opportunity for women in the future.
The nominees that we have had for today’s event are phenomenal. We had a flood of nominations to select from too, and that hasn’t always been the case.
A challenge that women have traditionally had is that, unlike men, they tend to hide their light under a bushel. This has not only led to a reluctance in female entrepreneurs putting themselves forward for awards, but in the past finding female speakers for events has often been a challenge.
That women are now gaining in confidence is clear and is great to see.
Joanne Roney, the chief executive of Manchester City Council, Ruth Turner, the founder of Big Issue in the North and former adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the chief executive of Preston City Council Lorraine Norris have been among the most inspirational of contributors to Downtown’s events programme already this year. Next month we welcome Commonwealth Games Champion Diane Modahl, Birmingham entrepreneur Deb Leary, and the founder of Moneypenny Rachel Clacher to headline our ‘Limitless’ conference.
The more successful females put themselves out there, the more role models beyond the WAG and TOWIE stereotypes emerge.
Where females in business really make a difference though is to a company’s bottom- line. There are umpteen reports that you can Google that show solid statistical evidence about the financial improvement businesses who add talented females to their team make.
From personal experience, we have, more by chance than design, created a team at Downtown over the past twelve months that has resulted in a 50:50 male/female ratio for the first time in a long time. We have enjoyed our most successful year ever. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
If there are any people out there who believe that the female agenda is a fluffy one, I would simply say to them – wake up – it’s the economy stupid!