I haven’t always been this passionate about the gender equality issue. I’m a little ashamed to say I used to be ‘one of those women’ who thought I was immune to it. I was aware of it, of course, but for a long time it didn’t get in the way of my personal career progression as I rose swiftly and smoothly from Brand Manager to Marketing Director to Senior Vice President in a leading multinational company.
And then I saw it. And when I saw it, I saw it everywhere. As a senior manager, I found myself in a male dominant environment for the first time in my career – in my life in fact – and realised that I had simply been lucky to have avoided gender barriers up to that point. I started to experience and witness the impact this has on women and their ability to perform at their best when they are in the minority group in a meeting or team. I saw brilliant, talented business women and leaders become small and silent before my eyes.
I became fascinated by this and devoured every book and article I could. That’s when I understood the extent of it, that it wasn’t about me, the women I knew, or my company – this was happening to women everywhere. Wherever I looked, whether in business, sport, politics or wherever, at the top levels I saw 90% plus men. I wanted to understand why this was the case, given that women are 50% of the population and have equal intelligence, competence, and leadership capability. I wanted to know where all those brilliant, talented women go.
So when I left my company after 25 years, I made myself a promise that I would write a book about what I had learnt about gender inequality, and ‘Why Men Win At Work’ was born. It was really important to me to go beneath the surface of the facts and figures to the psychology behind it, to lay out all the invisible, unconscious, and unintended things that drive it. I believe that, in order to solve a problem, we need to start by deeply understanding why it happens, even when people have good intentions and make efforts to address it.
It is also really important for everyone to understand that gender equality isn’t a charity, and it isn’t just for women. Businesses deliver better results. Societies are stronger and happier. Relationships are stronger and happier. An equal, diverse world is a better one where everyone wins.
I wish I had understood this issue earlier in my career, not only because I would have been more aware and better prepared to manage it personally, but because I could have got started much earlier on writing and talking about it. I simply can’t accept that 50% of the world should not be 50% of its leadership and have equal opportunity and treatment. I want to play my part in driving change and progress – and I won’t stop ‘til Equality.