Businesses must consider pipeline of female talent

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HR director at O2 Ann Pickering said businesses must forward plan to prevent the same conversation about lack of progress on women on boards coming round every five years

Businesses must consider their pipeline of female talent to progress towards gender equality in the workplace, according to Ann Pickering, HR director of O2.

Speaking at O2’s annual Women in Leadership event in London, Pickering explained that organisations must plan ahead. “In order to make a long-lasting difference, businesses need to consider who will be making up their senior directors and the board of tomorrow,” she said. “Otherwise, every five years we come back and have this same conversation [about the lack of women on boards].

Pickering was critical of the idea that female leaders must emulate male traits to be seen as effective. “You get the best out of people when you let them be themselves at work,” she told HR magazine. “It is all about trust. If you trust your employees to do their jobs well, you will get more out of that person, and they will go the extra mile for you when the chips are down. They will need to work in the way that is best for them for you to have a successful company.”

Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat and former parliamentary under secretary of state for employment relations, consumer and postal affairs, stressed the importance of teaching girls to pursue their ambitions from an early age. “We should start even before primary school,” she told HR magazine.

“Little girls today will grow up with a woman as head of state, a woman as prime minister and possibly a woman as president of the USA. But let’s not kid ourselves that power is now shared equally between men and women.

“There has never been a female chancellor, or defence secretary. There are more men called John than women CEOs of companies in the FTSE 100. The arts and sciences are dominated by men. It is unrepresentative, it is unimaginative, and it is unacceptable in 2016.”

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