FT Women at the Top 2019
By Jessica Ferreira – Co-Chair of The Future Leaders Shadow Board and Future Leaders Network
Gabi and I were thrilled to attend the 2019 FT Women at the Top Summit event on Gender equality in business in October at the gorgeous Landmark Hotel in Marylebone.
The opening of the event was about redefining power and giving thought to “if half the money and power were in the hands of women, how would the world be different”. This set the tone for the rest of the day.
Listening to so many leaders share their stories of success and setbacks, and being a part of the discussion about the obstacles stalling further progress was such a valuable experience. These women and men are helping drive the change at the leadership levels, however the change is needed at all levels and its needed now.
The resonating takeaways for me were:
- Highlighting the power of influence and we all need to play our part every day.
- The power of being a role model, and using your voice to drive change.
Dame Inga Beale was such an impactful speaker, her story was so interesting and she talked about not only her impressive work achievements including going on to be the first female CEO of Lloyd’s of London, a company that was 100% white men for 300 years, but also talking about the challenges, and setbacks she faced from quite a young age, including being a passionate but defiant young adult which really humanised the story.
There were some great questions from the audience that prompted interesting discussion throughout the day, including whether panellists believed in quotas. It was interesting to listen to thoughts from both sides, and talking more broadly about “inclusive” quotas and not just about gender. This particular question about quotas then got posed back to the audience for a show of hands, and the majority of the room put their hands up to agree with setting quotas.
Another interesting question posed by the audience was “Do you think women have more to learn from men about power?” –it resonated with me how this question was asked, after all men have had a lot of the power and money in business throughout history. However, as Inga pointed out, women use power differently to men. Women have their own power and it is extremely influential. If you are getting hired for a new job or going for that promotion, you are getting that opportunity because of who you are and how you have performed to date – there’s no need to start behaving like someone else!
As an Australian in London, I was curious to hear Julia Gillard (the first female Australian Prime Minister) speak in person and listen to her story. It was difficult to hear about the types of threats made to female MP’s every single day and the toxic masculinity in politics. Julia talked about the importance of instigating change, but also how it needs to not be about fixing women, but rather about fixing the structure and culture. Something that each person, woman and man, needs to be involved in order to achieve.
Here are some powerful tips from Ruby McGregor-Smith CBE (Former CEO of Mitie Group):
- Successful people have set backs
- Mistakes happen everyday – accept it and move on
- Be humble
- You’re only as good as the team you have around you
- Take risks on young people
- Understand the importance of emotional resilience
- Look forward – don’t reflect too much on the past
- The importance of networking
- Lead the change – sponsor three great people in your organisation and empower them
It was a great experience to participate and be a part of this day and to be able to network with so many inspiring leaders. The speakers and panel discussions were really interesting and from listening to the stories of these women and men, it does feel like some progress has been made. However, we are not even close to 50/50 yet, and the reality is that things to move faster. The biggest takeaway for me from the day was the power of influence and the importance of getting out there and using your voice to empower others!
We are so excited to bring this passion and enthusiasm as we continue to recruit for the founding members of the Future Leaders Shadow Board.