The 19th London Business School Women in Business conference, titled Shifting the Lens, focused on challenging assumptions about diversity.
The one-day event welcomed 400 delegates seeking inspiration for their efforts to create gender equality and to share their experiences. Attendees heard from a range of speakers including the keynote from Dame Helena Morrissey, co-founder of the 30% Club and head of personal investing at Legal and General Investment Management.
Morrissey founded the 30% Club in 2010 alongside Baroness Mary Goudie, with the aim to bring more women into leadership and board roles. It has since broadened its work to increase the involvement of women “from schoolroom to boardroom”.
In her address, Dame Helena stressed that business needs women to diversify thinking in organisations.
"I believe we stand on the verge of a new era, where gender balance is seen as an important part of the solution to the problems of today – not another problem to solve,” she said.
“A new era where we work together with men, solve problems together, live together, bring-up families together. An era where yes, we will see far more career opportunities for women but also more life choices for men too, freed from strait-jacketed expectations around what it takes to be a successful man.”
The conference agenda reflected Dame Helena’s advice about including men in the change process. Each of the day’s five panel sessions had at least one male speaker, who shared their perspectives on both supporting female colleagues and wanting to see change in their own work-life strain.
“I wish that shared parental leave had existed when my children were born,” said Xavier Rees, CEO of Havas London. “We need people to be very open about [spending time with family]. Unless you are open about it, nothing will change.”
Other panel sessions covered the topics of returnship programmes, cultural norms, and flexible working schemes. An afternoon workshop got the audience involved in exploring creative, small-scale solutions that they can implement to drive change in their workplaces.
The conference concluded with Alison Rose, (pictured) Deputy CEO of NatWest Holdings and CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Corporate, Commercial & Private Banking in conversation with Alexis Rose, director of business operations for Accenture Strategy Europe.
Alison Rose echoed many of the themes of the day: “It is too easy to fall back into the status quo, it is easy to hire in your own image, people who look like you, speak like you and think like you, because they are really easy to manage, but if you are good leader you want that diversity of thought and challenge.
“It broadens into a cultural question, if you want the best out of your people, to make them want to be part of your organisation then you’ve got to create the environment where they can bring their whole selves to work so that talent thrives whatever talent looks like.”
She advised businesses to set bold inclusion targets, to be vocal and embed change right through a business; to put mentors in place and “shamelessly steal” best practice ideas that bring collaborative ideas into an organisation.
The annual Women in Business conference is the flagship event of the LBS WiB Club and is supported by complementary initiatives throughout the year, including a Manbassadors programme and personal development workshop series. The conference is held in early March each year, with a special 20th anniversary edition planned for 2020. For additional information about the conference please visit lbswibconference.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.