February 1st, 2018

Lessons in equality from a PR perspective

As seen in Estates Gazette 

COMMENT: Managing director of communications company ING Media, Leanne Tritton, offers advice on how to show, not just talk about, real change in your business.

I have an unnatural fondness for early mornings and Mondays. There is something very promising about a fresh week ahead. However, this Monday is in a league of its own. The sense of a new beginning and opportunity is palpable.

As every woman connected to the property industry knows, the world actually changed in three days last week. Wednesday morning started with the Presidents Club revelations and by Friday night, there was almost no organisation not undergoing a review of their how their private behaviours matched their public declarations. I can confidently say that for the first time in my career, gender equality has now got to the top of the board agenda. How ironic that “PC” now has an entirely different meaning.

While there were a few diehards who declared it was all innocent, the vast majority of men and women were privately and publicly appalled. Sadly, it became clear from many men that the secret codes of business that prevent honesty and disclosure are as powerful and common for them as they are for women. The Presidents Club gave many a voice to openly discuss the subject and for that we can be grateful.

So what next and how can we seize on this opportunity? There are many companies and leaders who are already well on their way and don’t need my advice. Chris Grigg, chief executive of British Land, started the drive towards equality years ago so this will just be another working week for him and his team.

However, if you are a man and new to this equality game here are a few tips to improve your organisation and your corporate reputation. I warn you, it will require some brutal honesty on your part.

Firstly, look at the page on your website that features “the board”. If every one of them is a man, you have a problem. If you have one woman but she is from HR, communications or finance, you don’t get any points. We can all see through that. Add more women.

Don’t be scared about quotas. Just think of them in reverse – 30% female representation is actually a quota for 70% men. You are still winning.

For those with a male dominated board, be really honest and ask yourself how useful each of male member actually is. You probably already know who the mediocre ones are. Swap them a for woman – even if they haven’t been on a board before – they can’t be any worse.

Remember that “thinking-different” is a skill set. Having people around the table who have a different perspective is good business sense. Diversity isn’t a slogan – it’s good business sense. Why are we more inclined to value the opinion of millennials than experienced women?

You probably already know who the dinosaurs are in your team. You have watched them in professional and social situations and they have made you cringe. Start moving them out. Today. They are a liability and no amount of training will change them. Safeguard your company reputation by taking proactive action.

Don’t appear on all male panels. Just make that a rule. Simple. If you can’t find a woman for your panel, try the Women Talk Real Estate website – it’s a great resource for finding knowledgeable and articulate women.

Be aware. There is no excuse for all male anything in a corporate context. Photos, corporate bonding activities, awards dinner guest lists. By all means do what you want, but be under no illusion of the message it will send about your organisation.

There is a huge upside to this. Today, 50% of the population feel more hopeful, empowered and productive. Seize the moment and be a leader not a headline.


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