For her keynote talk at the Bay’s Pierhead building last week, economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett was refreshingly frank and practical. Her no-holds-barred approach saw her picking apart exactly what she believes holds women with the potential to reach top jobs back and the specific things they must do to overcome them.
Women will apply for jobs only if they believe they fulfil 90% of the necessary criteria; men at 45%. Women make up 34% of the ‘marzipan layer’, stuck just below top leadership, but only 23% of parliament, 3% of CEOs in the FTSE 100 and 7.6% of top corporate earners in the US.
Speaking of her own underprivileged upbringing in the Valleys (Wales, not California, though you’d be forgiven the confusion going by the twang of Hewlett’s American accent) she drew on a mix of personal experience from her career as an economist, businesswoman and writer and the stories of successful women such as Sheryl Sandberg to explore the importance of finding a sponsor to support you, asserting yourself in the workplace and mandating international companies to make it easier for women on maternity leave and encouraging more women on boards.
‘Showcasing successful women’
The event’s organiser Dame Rosemary Butler AM introduced the talk as an “extension of the spirit of International Women’s Day”, which it certainly was. Dame Rosemary’s “Women in Public Life” series has attracted a seriously impressive line-up of women to Cardiff over the past few years, from Shami Chakrabarti to Janet Street Porter. In June the group plans to host former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
She told us:
While also supporting campaigns such as 50/50 by 2020 which aims to encourage businesses in Wales to redress gender imbalances on boards, and a mentoring scheme giving women the opportunity to experience fields such as politics, it is clear that despite the mammoth task at hand, Cardiff is making strides towards promoting gender equality in the workplace.