As you all know, last week was International Women’s Day. And this year, I was invited along to celebrate it at a creative networking event, Stodge Podge.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Stodge Podge is a key event in many creative calendars – involving pulling together some of the biggest agency names, giving them a good lunch and allowing them to get to know each other and talk about whatever they want. Hosted by Phil Jones and his daughter Clare, the best way I can describe it is a family dinner party on a grand scale. There’s no agenda; no presentation; no pressure to meet or network with anyone in particular. In short, completely different from every other networking event I’ve ever been to.
Themed under International Women’s Day, the lunch also included a little social experiment involving a “token man” table; with only one of the twelve seats on a table being allocated to an unwitting man, Jonathan Sands OBE. This inverting of the norms made a distinct impression on, not only Jonathan himself, but also everyone else at the event – raising the point of why was this so out of the ordinary? And what does it say about our working society as a whole?
As someone who has worked with agencies, the fact that the creative industry was struggling with diversity, frankly came as quite a surprise.
And it’s this that really resonated with me, and the efforts we’re making at Accenture. Because ultimately, although we’re only working within our own organisation, I see what we do as being part of something bigger, in which everyone can take part.
From a top down level, of course, our diversity targets and initiatives have an immediate effect on what we do and how we do it. And this change, from a business perspective is very necessary. Because what it boils down to is that we are an organisation that is ultimately creating solutions for people. And if we don’t reflect a significant proportion of our population – whoever they are, whatever their gender, ethnicity or background – how can we expect to develop the products, ideas and solutions that can help them?
But setting objectives and delivering programmes can only go so far.
To deliver real change, I believe we can all play a bigger part. Hand on heart, can we all say we are supporting the talent we see in front of us? Are we giving our people the tools they need to return to work as a new parent? Are we giving them the advice that could make a difference to their role? Are we reaching out and offering our services as a mentor? Are we instilling self-belief in those whose confidence doesn’t match their talent?
Because these small things done en-masse will ultimately have a far bigger impact on our business than anything else. By working together, this will give young women the role models they’re looking for. By celebrating these role models, we can encourage more talented women to join our industry. Which increases our talent pool. And makes hiring the next generation of female leaders that much easier.
I know this is a long way off. And it won’t be easy. But things are already changing at a rapid pace. If we all help, we’ll definitely get there even quicker.