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Women in Public Affairs: Get in the room where things happen

Emily Wallace, Founding Partner | Inflect Partners

3 min read Partner content

The pandemic has changed the way we work for good, but we must not let it roll back progress in securing equality and diversity in the workplace

The brilliant team of volunteers at Women in Public Affairs (WiPA) have done great work over the last ten years to put the spotlight on women in the industry and put in place networks, support structures and provide a snapshot of gender equality in both the in-house and consultancy sector.

Their year-on-year survey paints a fairly consistent picture, which is depressingly familiar. Women aren’t paid as much as men, there is a lack of transparency on pay and pay gaps and a sense that women are not achieving the career progression they deserve too.

The WiPA survey this year asked women about their working practices. They found that 93 per cent of women in public affairs are working from home in some capacity and nearly 20 per cent are at home 4 or more days a week.

They also found that those who are older, outside of London and working in-house are more likely to spend more time working at home than in the office.

This is a great big red flag that should worry us.

Of course, for most of us, our working week looks different to how it did pre-pandemic. More meetings now happen online, different management and collaboration tools, new travel and working patterns and working from home is no longer considered (not) ‘working’ from home in the way it once was.

BUT. In politics and public affairs, networks and networking matter. It's not a ‘nice to have’, it’s essential. In public affairs gossip is currency that can be traded, relationships are human and humanising. Ideas are for passionate discussion and debate, and policy development is alliterative and collaborative. Meetings are never just meetings. They are opportunities to connect.

Just as political careers are built in the tea rooms of Westminster, public affairs careers are built by being in the rooms where things happen.

So, I’m taking a leaf out of my fellow patron for the Women in Westminster: The 100 - Baroness Jenkins. I'm counting. I’m counting the women in the room and I’m worried. There are women on screens, and men in the room and it's a pattern that looks set to stay. 

So to the women of Westminster. If you want to make a mark, have your say and make a stand. We need you in the room, not on a screen.

Yes, there is the commute to contend with, and yes, childcare is expensive and a hellish painful logistical challenge, but raising kids is not a solo enterprise. Men need to do more.

You need to be in the room where things happen.

Emily Wallace is one of the patrons of Women in Westmister: The 100. The 100 celebrates the achievements and the valuable role women play in public life by recognising one hundred women from across the world of Westminster, who are not only influential in their own field, but who possess the talent and platform to inspire the next generation to make a difference in Westminster and beyond. Follow @TheHouseMag and #WiW100 and keep an eye on our website for all announcements and The 100  reveal in March 2023.

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