Moving forward: is the glass ceiling melting

Articles in the last couple of weeks produced by Lucy Kellaway and Rosie
Millard have brought some fresh blood to the debate which will run and run.

Looking at the bigger picture of diversity, one key point is frequently
overlooked; that is that women exercise much more power and influence in
business than their numerical role represents. We constantly read about the
number of women on FTSE 100 boards. What should be more frequently discussed is
the number of women who are rising rapidly through the professions, which it
could be argued, is a better environment for career women.

A good example as far as influence is concerned, is a hugely successful FTSE
100 company that has three non-executive women on its board, one executive
director, the director of executive organisation and development, and the Retail
HR director, whose influence extends to some 65,000 people.

The debate therefore needs to change in emphasis; business is not about
democracy, it isn’t about delegate representation, it’s about performance and,
as I have just said, influence.

A particularly interesting and historically understated facet of Rosie
Millard’s article is ‘the poison’ represented across the whole of the OEC that
is manifested by ‘workaholism’, a phenomenon created in Japan and perfected in
the United States.

Modern commercial life is permeated by a failure to distinguish between
activity and action. Commercial life needs a breakthrough, and that breakthrough
is represented by a chief executive officer, who not only understands, but
demonstrates in his work style, behaviours and communications that work does not
have to fill all available space.

Look in this week’s newspapers and you will find numerous examples of chief
executives who crow about the fact that they are sending out emails in the
middle of the night, dinners three times a week, who when interviewing potential
senior candidates, suggest meeting at 7:30am. I’m sorry, but how pathetic is
that? Modern technology should be an aid to productivity. In so many cases it
has become a facilitator of neuroses.

Andrew Garner is chief executive of Garner

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