No woman, no cry

Posted on May 29, 2012


New research from the BBC shows that fewer than a third of the UK’s most influential jobs are held by women, and to my surprise BBC Radio Derby asked for my humble opinion live on the radio this morning. Assuming it was down to my former employ I politely declined but they were insistent they wanted me anyway! Once I stopped dancing round the bedroom, high fiving myself I gave the subject some proper thought.

I’m not a feminist , I believe in equality and that doesn’t mean one group being more equal than others, but I do think that women are still often marginalised in the workplace, especially in the brewing industry, and over looked for jobs for no reason other than their gender. The need for a ‘quota’ is a sad indictment of today’s workplace culture and a necessary evil. I’m sure I’m not alone as a woman in hating the idea of getting a job to hit a “lady quota” and there’s a fine line to tread to avoid tokenism but at the same time unless change is forced it’s unlikely we will see the numbers of women in top jobs massively change.

Plenty of research suggests that companies with lots of women in senior positions are more successful than those without, although the reasons for that still seem unclear, but the need to introduce a quota suffered a set back from a recent study that discovered having up to three women on a company board makes little or no difference to an organisation’s performance. However what throws this study into some doubt for me is the assertion that:

“However, our findings indicate that women were unlikely to challenge their male board colleagues for fear of being marginalised.”

This suggests that the lack of difference is not because women won’t make a significant impact, offering a different point of view and set of behaviours, but actually because even those women that have made the stop still suffer from the “glass ceiling” effect that is stopping women truly reaching their potential and this needs to be addressed. And not just at board level, there needs to be equality, not positive discrimination, at all organisational levels if we are to unlock women’s workplace potential.

I’ve been on the receiving end of lots of arguments that this workplace sexism doesn’t exist in the beer industry but is that really the case? Well the Publican’s Morning Advertiser recently published Top 50 Most Influential People In The Pub Industry would suggest otherwise with not a single woman making the top 10 and only 3 women appearing at all (Brigid Simmonds, of the British Beer & Pub Association, licensee Karen Murphy and Inge Plochaet of AB InBev). Is that because there’s no successful, high achieving women in the industry? Far from it but are they reaching the top and being recognised for their ability, sadly no.

Most businesses are against quotas, with even Theresa May opposing them as they could add unnecessary burden and stop the right person being appointed to the job. That’s something I agree with but when the “right person” can still be overlooked on the basis of gender change has to be forced to bring about the right change in mindsets at every level in the work place.

P.S Shameless plug (sorry) – if you do want to hear my dulcet tones on the radio I was on with Phil Trow around 8:40am

Posted in: Women and Beer