We must develop new ways of working to support women across all walks of life
The saying: ‘if you want a job done, give it to a busy woman’ holds particularly true in a year in which we have all faced a great many challenges – and nowhere more so than in the world of Westminster.
Whether you are a politician, one of the civil servants tasked with turning policy into reality or a journalist trying to keep ahead of every twist and turn in a, to say the least, complex, political landscape, the last 12 months have been intense.
Increasingly, those at the sharp end have been women. Two of the great offices of State are held by women, along with the offices of the Shadow Chancellor and Shadow Home Secretary and I’m pleased to see that those in power are being scrutinised and held to account by a growing number of female political editors.
So, it’s right that we recognise and honour them. Lloyds Banking Group is proud to have supported Women in Westminster: The 100 since its inception three years ago. Initiatives like this demonstrate that it is possible to succeed at the highest levels of politics, journalism, or the Civil Service. It celebrates those who have made the journey and inspires those who are starting out. In both the political and business world, role models like these are essential. You can’t be what you can’t see and by shining a light on the women who are driving the agenda now, we can help bring the next generation of female talent through.
While a lot of progress has been made – there is still a long way to go. Across society, equality is still an aspiration to be reached rather than a pledge fulfilled. Lloyds Banking Group as the first FTSE100 company to set a public goal – 50% for the proportion of women in senior roles by 2025. We have followed that with another public commitment to increase the number of Black colleagues in senior roles to at least 3%, over the same period to align with the overall UK labour market. This will complement our wider Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic target of 13%. We are making progress against all of these targets, but frankly, we know we need to go further and faster. Meeting these targets will be difficult and leave us open to challenge, but that’s why we did it. This is an issue where, at all levels of society, words must be turned into deeds and at pace.
But equality is not just a numbers game. It’s also about creating environments where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.
The pandemic has thrown this into sharp relief and has generated some contrasting outcomes. On the one hand, it has made some inequalities worse - women are over-represented in some of the hardest-hit sectors and more likely to have employment contracts which put them at greater risk of economic detriment.
On the other, many organisations have been given an unexpected push down the road towards flexible working practices. ‘Working from home’ has become a fact of life and has shown that we can work in different ways and still be productive.
Against that though is the unescapable truth that many women have had the worst of all worlds. I suspect some of you reading this will smile (or grimace) wryly at the thought of being given the ‘flexibility’ to take part in numerous Zoom calls while still expected to be the primary carer, chief cook and bottle washer.
So, at Lloyds we’re clear our focus needs to be on ensuring we are an organisation that is agile and reflects the world in which we now live. It’s about developing ways of working which work for all. Yes, that means hybrid models, but it should also incorporate things like childcare, supporting colleagues through the menopause and developing pathways for female colleagues to achieve their potential. Fixing the system – not fixing the women.
That’s why all those who feature in ‘Women in Westminster: The 100’ matter so much. From their leadership and the example they set today comes the prospect of greater opportunity for all tomorrow.
Women in Westminster: The 100 is out now. You can view the list here.
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