Ladies that lunch and worry

women at workI recently attended a lunch for ladies put on by the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce. Ironically, given the theme was economic equality and how to inspire women, this was the first all female lunch the chamber has had in over a decade. In some ways it is easy to understand why – because no one wants to sound like a group of whinging harpies, and because equality should be about not discriminating. Given the stark statistics presented by Dr Haya Al-Dajani, we may have to put our lofty principles to one side for a little. She and her team at the Norwich Business School at the UEA, clearly quantify what we sort of already know.

  • Women are under-represented in senior decision making posts
  • Women earn less than men
  • Women have more part time work that men
  • Women are better qualified than men

The issue isn’t one of men versus women. The issue is about wasted potential, under-utilised and under-rewarded capacity. Why do so many bright, able, intelligent and high performing women leave college super-charged only to find their energies dissolved and eroded and re-directed before they ever get a change to embed family-friendly policies or work-life balance strategies. Part of the reason, and an obvious but species crucial one, is that they take time to have families. As they come away from the nappy zone, often wiser and stronger as a consequence, it is to find their place on the corporate ladder forever gone. Women who don’t have family, or who take minimal time away, can find themselves expected to bridge the gap between bosses (men?) unsympathetic to family challenges and mothers juggling logistics. Pretty irksome all round.

Listening to the women at the lunch it was clear that it the imbalance bothers women, but that there is no one solution – apart from complete overhaul of the whole socio-economic Western capitalist system that started evolving when the industrial revolution kicked-off.  Life isn’t fair – but there are surely a few things we could do every day to make it a little more just. My initial suggestions are aimed at the beginning of the role assigning process.

1.)    Be positively gender neutral with children. This means not just letting girls play cars and meccano, but positively encouraging them to – and not telling boys that Barbie is a toy for girls.

2.)    Ensure all young people have to engage in physical activity including a team-base and competitive sport (yes, have to – bit tough this, but I believe the spirit of the “playing fields of Eton” is the spirit that binds and creates energy. It also improves self-esteem and confidence). The sports media, in my utopia, would broadcast women’s sport more too.

3.)    Engage with school children earlier so that they all get a chance to understand the career choices that are available to them. For example, when the leading engineer from a racing car design company goes to tell a class of Year 10 (15 year olds) all about the beauty of precision engineering it should leave both girls and boys thinking “That could be me in 20 years time!” I believe this would help children not see the glittering prize as a place at university – but understand and embrace all the stepping stones en route to an economically fulfilling lifestyle.

And finally, women – share the good news stories about other women. Support women by mentoring, coaching and listening. Get networking, sharing ideas and championing – and, please, spend more time doing things and less time talking and worrying about it.



Image ©

Is the traditional CV dead?

alternative cvSpeed, image and innovation are everything in our digital age and the need for a paper-based CV seems to be vanishing. An increasing amount of recruitment is done using LinkedIn and other recruitment platforms; on line application forms require personal data to be entered in specific boxes, and recruitment software can be used to scan documents for key phrases (so who needs grammar?) A social media expert I talked to recently was pretty clear “It’s dinosaur presentation – old fashioned, fuddy-duddy and we all need to move on”.

Certainly there have been some recent fantastic examples of social media thinking: the eBay page CV; the Amazon book page CV; the Google-Plus page CV. There are also some very alternative “real” CV presentations – such as the soup carton and the decorated cake and the sandwich board. In modern parlance –sick (means really good). Even more exciting is the notion of the YouTube CV where you can upload a film of yourself telling the potential employer about yourself, and even filming you achievements and attributes. (See the links at the bottom for some of the more outrageous options)

The social media champions will tell you that one of the strengths is that the whole of a person shows up on line – their connections through LinkedIn; their friends and hobbies on Facebook; their taste in music on Spotify. A note of caution comes from some recruiters though – the details on a CV should speak for themselves – you don’t have to tell someone your age, gender or ethnic background – but if the CV is a 5 minute film of the candidate it’s hard to prove that, as a potential employer, there wasn’t any discrimination in the selection process.

I’m muttering too because, apart from a few really creative roles, most companies aren’t looking for weird and awesome most of the time. Recruitment people want, at a glance, to see if the candidate is broadly meeting the criteria that are important to them before deciding to call them in for an interview. They want a clear, concise layout with obvious contact details. They want information which shows that the candidate has considered the nature of the company they are applying to, the nature of the job for which they are applying and their own strengths, abilities and relevant experience. And they don’t want to have to make an enormous, time-consuming effort to unearth all the crucial information as they click on links and download podcasts… all that information should be there in one handy, thought-out clear document: a traditional CV.


A range of different ways of presenting yourself on paper and on line

A really good film version of a CV by a man at the height of his powers (and once you find him you soon find yourself wandering through Tubeland watching countless film CVs…. )