GROW: Gender Balance in the Workplace

Why are we still discussing gender inequality and the pay-gap that exists in contemporary organisations? This was among the questions asked by attendees at a vibrant event held at the University of Suffolk.

Supported by the Institute of Directors, (IOD), ‘Gender Re-Agenda – resetting the Conversation in Organisations and the Workplace’ or #GROW, launched the Suffolk Business Festival 2016, a week of events  managed by the Suffolk Business School, at the University of Suffolk.

grow-event

This year the Festival had a clear focus on diversity, in its many forms and the first event focused on how change can happen in organisations, public private, large and small, to the support gender equality agenda.

Taking the form of an open space forum, the event drew together representatives from businesses and organisations, academics and students to discuss their questions around gender balance in the workplace.

Research by McKinsey found that, in the UK, greater gender diversity on the senior executive team corresponded to the highest performance uplift in the 107 listed companies it analysed. For every 10 per cent increase in gender diversity at these companies, earnings before interest and tax rose by 3.5 per cent.

Closing the gender gap in the UK workforce alone, McKinsey estimates, has the potential to add £150bn to gross domestic product in 2025, and could translate into 840,000 more women in the labour force.

Chair of the Suffolk IOD Graham Kill said “most company directors are men. Most of IoD Suffolk’s members are men. Progress is being made in increasing the number of women in leadership positions, but arguably too slowly. Yet, company directors, including male directors, have seen and clearly understand the data that diversity (on the basis of gender, race, etc) on boards, senior management teams and amongst employee teams is good for business.”

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Laura Locke, Senior Lecturer in the Suffolk Business School, introducing the event. (C) Suffolk Business School

“Much of the diversity conversation has been about quotas to: proactively and more profoundly achieve diversity balance. We believe that more concrete conversations need to happen in parallel to ensure directors understand how they should change their organisations to be more inclusive (to all, including women). Therefore, IoD Suffolk was pleased to support University of Suffolk’s Gender Re-Agenda open space event.”

“Participants universally applauded the open space approach. It ensured a diverse range of views were expressed and we look forward to seeing the synthesis of those conversations. That synthesis will undoubtedly stimulate further conversations and lead to tangible actions that the business community can implement to become increasingly more inclusive.”

Greta Irving from Transcend Development facilitated the event and expressed why she loves ‘Open Space Technology’: “It is a wonderful way to bring teams, groups or organisations together to have conversations that matter.  I love facilitating Open Space because it brings people together in a new and different way to create new connections and new dialogue. It is such a simple powerful tool is such a simple and powerful tool that supports creativity, cooperation, collaboration and communication!”

Jackie Clifford, Director of Clarity Learning and Development said “What a fantastic way to spend a couple of hours – I truly wish that we’d had longer to participate in the Open Space event led by Greta Irving. The methodology really lent itself to exploring a wide-ranging and, potentially, emotive topic and the groups that I took part in grappled with some real issues in a thought-provoking way which stimulated a broad depth and breadth of ideas and conversations.  Thank you to Laura Locke and the team at the University of Suffolk, along with the Institute of Directors, for enabling us to participate in this excellent event – I look forward to the next one!”

The next event is provisionally scheduled for 19 January 2017; please email talkbusiness@uos.ac.uk and quote #GROW if you are interested in attending.

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