Looking for a ‘gender-blind’ future

It announced a commitment to at least 30 per cent female participation for the company.

CBI Northern Ireland’s chair Colin Walsh said: “In the last 12 months the private sector has created over 16,000 jobs – an encouraging start to our rebalancing of the economy with jobs being created in manufacturing and construction, as well as the services sector.

“The private sector is getting on with it – creating jobs and wealth, investing in their people and innovation, creating new products and services. But we recognise the journey has only begun and much work remains to be done if we are to achieve another of CBI’s objectives: ensuring that growth makes a difference to everyone.”

While Walsh’s speech was largely optimistic, there are still widespread concerns about the presence of women in business. Recent figures from Credit Suisse found 12.7 per cent of global board appointments were women. While this shows an increase, these roles were typically in HR, PR and law – rather then operational.

Areas, said Credit Suisse, which have “less influence and less direct profit and loss responsibilities.”

Credit Suisse also acknowledged a dearth in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) female graduates. At the CBI lunch, NIE, Northern Ireland Executive, discussed the STEM charter and its commitment to the improving gender balance in that arena.

Walsh said: “Business needs to once again take ownership of the continuing momentum and progress of the last two decades – something seen very clearly in the number of females in attendance at the Lunch today – and ensure that diversity is and remains a key business issue.”

Speaking at the event, entrepreneur Liz Earle MBE said: “My message to business today is that when it comes to nurturing and development within your own team, especially female talent that may also have other facets, such as family life or entrepreneurial experience over a formal qualification, don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Concerned with issues in gender diversity? Don’t miss Real Business’s First Women programme:

Drawing on ten years of the First Women movement and the phenomenal network of pioneering women the Awards has created, this programme features The First Women Awards and The First Women Summit – designed to educate, mentor and inspire women in all levels of business.

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