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Countess shows the way for our daughters at EY

To improve gender diversity at board level, steps can be taken before our daughters even leave school, says EY partner Joanna Santinon.


September 2018

Although gender diversity in UK business has become more of a focus in recent years, especially with the introduction of the Gender Pay Gap Regulations, there is no doubt a long way to go to achieve gender parity. Indeed according to the World Economic Forum’s latest report it will take more than 216 years to do so.

Employers are looking for ways to increase the representation of women at all levels of their organisation, to help fast forward to a more inclusive, gender equal workplace. But perhaps we need to look well before employees even enter the workplace for the first time.

EY recently held an event for school-aged girls, hosted by HRH The Countess of Wessex. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Women’s Network Forum (WNF), of which the Countess is founder and chair, gathered a group of 30 students to help inspire them in their future careers.

Twenty of the girls were accompanied by their parents, who are senior figure heads in different industries and sectors. WNF hopes that those organisations will in turn hold similar events at workplaces across the city.

The event was designed with the students in mind. The room was set up in a round table format so they could chat easily to each other about themselves and their aspirations, while at the same time building confidence and networking skills.

Speakers and role models, who worked in many different industries from tech to finance to professional services, rotated around the tables to share their own experiences and answer questions in small groups.

One of the keynote speakers, Aviva CEO Mark Wilson, talked about how important it is for fathers - particularly those with daughters – to stand up and make a difference for all women in the workplace. With their children in mind, senior leaders can perhaps see other ways in which they can shape UK business for the future.

As a mother of a daughter who is eight years old, I am conscious of the many everyday influences that shape her view of gender and could impact her career choices. As employers and parents there are steps that we can take to help breakdown some of the lingering gender stereotypes, highlighting role models and helping to pave the way to parity.

Joanna Santinon is a partner at EY, leads EY’s Women’s Network and is a member of the steering committee of the 30% Club.

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