As a bunch of women (and men – sorry Rob) in both business and technology there are some in the office who are offended on a daily basis that the business community feels a need to single out women as needing extra help to get on. Fundamentally they feel that having quotas for women in the boardroom or specialist mentoring campaigns are sexist and offensive – that women should be judged on their merit and ability to do the job and not on their sex. And I quote, “By making gender an issue, it becomes an issue.”
On the opposite side of the argument some of my colleagues feel the campaigns are liberating and finally acknowledge that the glass ceiling is in evidence everywhere. Helping to mentor women in business and technology and stricter numbers in the boardroom will go a long way towards evening out the gender imbalance in the workplace.
I recently spent my morning at a digital technology in business event. It bought together leaders and entrepreneurs in technology to discuss how it can help businesses utilise technology for growth. Out of the five panels, made up of four or five speakers each only one was a woman. Is this surprising? Not really. What I found more surprising was the host’s and the audience’s reaction to the only female panelist. The host made a big deal about their support for women in technology and women in business, and the audience live tweets reflected this standpoint. The said lady speaker in question acknowledged the point but swiftly moved on to discuss the point of her being there – to talk about technology.
If I’d been in her high heels, I would have been somewhat embarrassed at the big deal made over my gender rather than my contribution to the discussion. Having spent my career predominately in tech – surrounded by men – I’m quite used to being in a male environment but equally that’s balanced by a career in the female dominated PR industry. I wonder if it’s due to working within these two extreme environments that has caused my indecision about which side of the argument I’m in favour of.
So what do you think? Do you think woman need legislation to keep the boardroom doors open to them or are they unnecessary when the glass ceiling has already been smashed?
Claire Lamb is a consultant at Skout. She’s worked in technology PR for 20 years and has survived more bubbles than Michael Jackson.