Women need to continue to lead from the front, says EY on suffragette centenary

4 June 2013

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  • EY hosts London launch of The Two Percent Club – created by Inspirational Journey to give a voice to corporate women
  • On the centenary of suffragette Emily Davison’s death at the Epsom Derby, EY’s UK & Ireland Managing Partner, says he is frustrated by the pace of change around female representation in the boardroom
  • Women need to continue to lead from the front, says Liz Bingham, EY’s Managing Partner for People

Speaking at the launch event of the London branch of The Two Percent Club, Steve Varley, EY’s UK & Ireland Managing Partner said:

“100 years ago to the day, Emily Davison fell under the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby lobbying for voting rights for women. It is one of a series of historical events that continue to impact our behaviours, challenge our attitudes and change the way that we think about diversity. It also underlines the importance of what one individual is capable of achieving through their actions to support and address serious issues, such as the gender balance of women in business.

“For years now business has agreed a competitive case for diversity: we all know that diversity gives us access to a wider talent pool and helps us represent our client base. Diverse teams fundamentally make better business decisions and therefore do better business. But I am frankly frustrated by the pace of change.

“That’s why EY chose to go public and publish the diversity of our UK people population, when we signed up last year to Theresa May’s Think, Act, report. And it is why I chose to announce our aspirational targets for both female and black minority ethnic partner admissions. I don’t want to be patient; we shouldn’t be measuring progress and success in just inches – we should be able to measure it in miles.”

Liz Bingham, EY’s Managing Partner for People in the UK & Ireland, chairs the London branch of The Two Percent Club. Speaking at the launch event, she said:

“Improving the diversity of our boardrooms isn’t just an issue for politicians or large multinationals. We all have a part to play but it’s important that women continue to lead from the front.

“Events like this evening, never fail to inspire or motivate me. I’m surrounded by a room full of talented women with a wealth of experience to share. Each of you are role models in your own right, but how many of us are mentors or actively find opportunities to pass on this knowledge to colleagues and other women coming through the pipeline?

“The UK has come a long way in the last 100 years, but we will only continue to make progress if we start to see real behavioural change. And this means each of us taking personal responsibility.

“We need to get better at making the most of the assets in this room, by both asking for help and actively offering it to others. As women, we often have very established networks but we aren’t always overt about using them for a business purpose.

“I recognise this is my own career. With the benefit of hindsight I can see that I faltered and plateaued when I didn’t use my networks either inside or outside of the office. The barriers I faced have only ever been internal blockers I created for myself. They weren’t imposed by an organisation or individual.

“I certainly won’t make the same mistake again and the power of The Two Percent club is the ability to help others avoid the same traps too. Regulation will only take us so far, but galvanising a 500 strong network across the UK, has the potential to effect real behavioural change.”