Laura Tennison: For the glass ceiling to be shattered, there needs to be a revolution at home


Saturday 14 August 2010 00:00

The statistic we need to look at is not how many women are directors of FTSE 100 companies compared with men, but how many women want to be directors of FTSE 100 companies.

Are women really being stopped from getting those positions? Or is it that women have a more balanced view on life and don't always put career above every other aspect?

I'm not being in the least bit sexist in saying this. I think women are extremely good directors and in my company I might be accused of being too pro-women. I have five directors in my company, including me, and they are all women.

But most women would prefer to work for a medium-sized company, or one that values a work-life balance, than for a male-dominated City institution or a FTSE 100 company that doesn't accept there's more to life than making money.

Some women strive for a balanced life where they can have a family and a top job. It is possible, but only if you're not expected to be on the 6am flight to Brussels every day.

A City institution is not the place to go if you're a working mum who wants to make it in a big City firm because you have to be as good as the man for the job. It's vital to get the best person for the job, and in those environments that's often someone who is willing to drop all.

Nowadays I will not sacrifice being there for my children for the sake of my company. I would rather grow my company slower than miss my child's school play.

If large City institutions do move towards creating a better work-life balance for their employees, they must do that for men as well as women. You cannot be sexist either way.

But I think what we may find in the future is that men will start demanding a hands-on role in parenting, and that's when things could change. For now, the attitude is that it's the best person for the job and if they're prepared to work round the clock – and they happen to be a man – so be it.

I welcome the fact that the Government has appointed Lord Davies to look into female representation in business because we have to keep asking questions. The Government needs to ensure that discrimination is kept out of the work place. But they also need to look at the bigger picture and not just the statistics.

I'm not in favour of quotas for women at a board level, though. We need anti-discrimination laws, but I don't think quotas work. It's far too simplistic a way to tackle a very complicated problem.

Laura Tennison is the founder of JoJo Maman Bebe – an independent mother and baby products retailer. She was recently named Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year

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