The WiM London Women on Boards Event took place on 27 June 2012 at the City Business Library. Our speaker for the evening was Dr Shaheena Janjhua-Jivraj, who was joined by Boardwalk Co-Founder Lady Kitty Chisholm. The evening provided an opportunity for the team at WiM London and our delegates to facilitate the exchange of best practice. Our delegates were a diverse group of professional women at various stages of their careers boasting a wide range of experiences. Some of the delegates are currently serving on Boards.
Drawing from the results of the Boardwalk survey of 500 professional women working in PLCs, SMEs, public and third sectors, Dr Janjuha-Jivraj explained that the poor gender diversity in top tier positions was not due to a lack of relevant expertise or ambition among women. Rather, one of the issues stymieing the advancement of women in the workplace is the limited visibility of Board level vacancies. Women are thus unable to put themselves forward for Board positions.
The sectors women work in also affect their ability to be flexible and continue to contribute at a level that leads to advancement within an organisation. Dr Janjuha-Jivraj compared the careers of Sheryl Sandberg, who is able to work in a 'virtual' office versus Anne-Marie Slaughter, whose role required extensive travel. The ability to work from home on occasion can have a significant impact on the work/life balance.
The speaker also drew attention to the single most important factor in career progression: sponsorship. A step beyond mentoring, sponsorship is far more proactive. Aspiring Board members need to identify a sponsor who could champion their cause, and Lady Chisholm reminded us that this sponsor could be either male or female. Men in the UK are more open to sponsoring women than their US counterparts. As there is no easily identifiable pool of sponsors in the UK, women need to rely on their own networks.
It is also important to understand your individual goals in order to align them with those of your potential sponsor, and to communicate these ambitions succinctly when the opportunity arises. The speakers led the delegates through some exercises designed to encourage the women to consider their experiences to date and to distil this into a simple statement that will captivate potential sponsors and executive search consultants.
Following on from closing comments, delegates and WiM London team members enjoyed the opportunity to network among one another and establish new contacts.
The next event for WiM London is Women in Leadership on 26 September. Registration is now open, and more photographs are available on the WiM London Facebook page. We are also on twitter - @wimlondonchair and @wimlondonpr.
Our photographer for the evening was team member Maria Flores, whose work can be viewed here on her website.