Senior women in trade call for concrete targets to tackle gender imbalance at top

Senior women in trade call for concrete targets to tackle gender imbalance at top

Women should have role models at every level of the publishing industry in order to improve the gender imbalance at the top, and companies must do more to proactively support women, a seminar on women in leadership stated.

More than 150 people attended the event in the Olympia Room, which was standing room only. The event was chaired by Suzy Astbury, m.d. and owner of Inspired Search & Selection, and featured Hodder Education m.d. Lis Tribe, DK m.d. Rebecca Smart, director of strategy and transformation at the Web of Science Group Samantha Burridge, and Bonnier Books c.e.o. Perminder Mann.

Discussing whether the trade needs to increase the number of women in leadership roles, Mann called on women to become role models at every level, adding: "We’ve got a responsibility to support women and celebrate successes, and not just at the top. This industry is 70% women and I think the industry’s success is in large part down to women—that’s not just women at the top, but women across the board. I think everyone has a responsibility to be a role model, no matter what level you are at."

As a mother of two who returned to work part-time five weeks after her second child was born, Mann said that when she became c.e.o., one of the first things she looked at was its policy on flexible working and shared parental leave.

Burridge said: "It’s about making sure you find an environment you thrive in, but it does take a lot of tenacity to be in a very senior position. I have to say, of the male bosses I’ve had, they all tend to have women at home doing the stuff that I have to do when I get home. My husband has worked abroad all week since my daughter was six [she is now 16 years old]... I’m not going to lie, it takes a huge amount of tenacity to be on the board of three major companies, to make an impact. I have to decide before every trip whether I can do it, in a way that, frankly, my husband doesn’t, rightly or wrongly."

Tribe said companies can make a difference through policies, and called for a focus on mentoring. "Every company should have a policy and they must audit that policy. We count the things that are important: we count sales, profits, user clicks, shares and likes, because they’re important. We should count how many women we have in leadership [roles], how diverse we are. If we audit it, we will care about improving it. I think flexible working policies and mentoring are key."

Smart told the audience to "take every opportunity to be mentored". She said: "Lots of women are offering time. Don’t be afraid to take up that time. The worst you’re going to get is a polite ‘no’."