AUTHOR: Jurga Zilinskiene MBE
DATE: March 12, 2023
Empowering Women. We know why. Now do it!
Empowering women. We know why. Now do it!
Great minds have talked about empowering women for centuries. We know why we must do it, so now do it! This is my reflection on the week the world celebrated women. This year, the Institute of Government Public Policy (IGPP) kindly invited me to be their keynote speaker at the Progressing Women in Leadership 2023 conference.
3 Reasons why women struggle to excel
So why is empowering women a struggle? There are three big reasons that I’ve seen over the years. Also, the constant quest for more data is unhelpful. Thankfully, we can improve the situation as I explain below and in the IGPP video.
Women leaders are awesome for companies, innovation and society
Females leaders create awesome results that inspire the next generation of young professionals.
That guarantees opportunities way into the future by creating the environment where innovation flourishes.
When women are empowered to be creative, to learn and experiment, sensational new innovation happens.
Like securing partnerships with global brands that trust you. Developing new processes and cutting-edge AI technologies that solve complex problems. Even winning prestigious awards from Queen Elizabeth.
In short, empowering women works.
The best-selling author and productivity expert Andy Bass, knows how to discover your business’ ‘Hidden Gold’. He teaches leaders to, ‘Start with what works’. A great place to start is by empowering more women!
$7 Trillion lost due to gender gap
The global economy is losing a massive $7 trillion due to the gender gap according to new research by Moody’s. Imagine the increases in productivity from closing that gap? Then using that extra capacity to solve the big problems like improving skills and protecting our planet. Do it and the results will be revolutionary.
Inspiration feeds inspiration
Let’s equip more young people with the skills industry urgently needs. We can inspire millions who to want to play their part in building a future that is safer, more productive and sustainable. We can ignite a powerful chain reaction that keeps giving because inspiration feeds inspiration. Now, what does this kind of female empowerment mean for business and society? Well, suddenly, the big challenge of finding younger people with skills is less of a worry. Take a look at my team and the remarkable men and women that join us from Sheffield Hallam University and other epic institutions.
Best of all, our people use their dynamism to grow as leaders. Inspiring the next-generation to flourish. This is the secret to building a sustainable society and has been the Guildhawk philosophy since I founded the company in 2001.
Solving the ageing workforce challenge
The ageing workforce is a big global issue. In construction for example, research shows 47% of UK nationals working in the industry are aged 45 years or older. Worldwide, only 10% of construction jobs are filled by women. It’s inspiring to see how innovators like Gammon Construction in Hong Kong are improving this by providing training and opportunities to help women flourish. Project manager Ashley Fung explains what this means for women in construction in this video:
Just 1% of VC investment goes to business women
As I have said before, a measly 1% of all the Venture Capital (VC) money is invested into women. Yes, 99% goes to men in start-ups. You can see why many talented women with new ideas to improve society want more action not more research.
“You can see why many talented women with new ideas to improve society want more action not more research. ”Jurga Zilinskiene MBE
Female Entrepreneur and Coder
Reasons why women and girls don’t excel
Investing just 1% of VC money into female led business is one reason why women don’t excel. There are others.
All too often, parents and employers don’t give girls and women, the motivation to want to succeed. Rather than inspiring girls to dream big, they promote stereotypes. In the worst cases, girls are prevented from doing things they are amazing at.
This may be cultural or social bias because there is a strong view that girls should do X and boys do Y. Now, if you grow up being told that, it follows you through school, work and even your social life.
Childcare is another big barrier for women who want to excel in their work lives. New research by PWC shows how this penalises mums who want to work. Nursery places are expensive plus there is a serious shortage of skilled workers in early years education.
At Guildhawk we introduced family friendly working practices because we want to help our people. To help more parents, let’s make nursery care more affordable. And make careers in early-years education more attractive so more people enter this crucial profession.
Gathering data can give an illusion of action
Data is vital to understand a problem but can create the illusion of action. Presenting new data is popular around international women’s day since it is topical. The constant quest for more gender inequality data is now on the verge of being madness. As an illustration, think the respected data already collected about the many big challenges we face.
Data must power new innovation
Don’t get me wrong, as a coder, I love love data because I know how it can power innovation for good. New Generative AI like GPT-3 for example needs trusted data-sets to train it, otherwise it generates results that are wrong. So, when you possess data that can solve a problem, use it. If you just sit pretty on an an ocean of data, eventually you will drown. Sitting on data and not acting has been a challenge throughout history.
In 1896 Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius first predicted that changes in atmospheric CO2 levels could substantially alter the surface temperature through the greenhouse effect. Back in 1938, Guy Callendar connected CO2 increases in the Earth’s atmosphere to global warming.
Eighty five years later, little action has been taken. Then, last year, UN Secretary-General António Guterres gave the darkest warning. He said rich countries must reverse climate change or ‘we are doomed’. Evidence if we need it, that collecting more data and doing nothing simply gives an illusion of action.
Let little girls be leaders not followers
Early years education is the safe haven where little girls learn to be confident leaders, not shy followers. Harriet Crouch, my early-years education guru daughter, is a wonderful advocate of the power of inspiring little ones. Encouraging boys and girls to discover nature and play as a group promotes mutual respect. Rolling down muddy hills on rainy days is a magical way for children to build confidence, the secret to success throughout life. Whether it’s playing in mud or learning to code at an early age, help girls learn to be leaders.
The positive results of this approach have been known for two centuries. In 1797, Mary Wollstonecraft, advocate of woman rights and founding feminist philosopher published her thoughts on the education of daughters. 236 years later, her advice has new resonance. It would be wonderful to see more women enter politics too and introduce policies that result in measurable improvements. Women in Britain got the vote in 1918 after a tireless fight by the suffragettes.
Let us reinvigorate that spirit of Emmaline Pankhurst 105 years ago. Start with what works and empower more girls to become sensational leaders.