The Women’s Equality Party came from nowhere to tens of thousands of votes in London. Business should learn the lesson that gender equality is a winner
It’s been a busy few months in the world of politics, with big players from opposing parties elbowing each other for the top spots across the country.
But there’s been a more subtle battle unfolding that might have been missed by many, but which should serve as a clear warning for the future. While other leaders were shouting to be heard, the Women’s Equality Party (WEP), at only a year old and led by a political unknown (Sophie Walker, a former journalist), slid quietly to the fore, receiving more than 50,000 votes (two per cent of the vote) in London’s mayoral elections and more than 90,000 (3.5 per cent) in the capital’s assembly elections.
Many will look at that as an insignificant figure – but considering the Greens (then known as the People party) received a mere 4,576 votes in its first general election in 1974, WEP has been a clear success story.
But what can those of us who run businesses, away from the political limelight, learn about the swift rise of this political newcomer?
Women’s equality is key
It wasn’t just women who voted for Sophie Walker, it was husbands, colleagues and brothers too. Many people – men and women – recognise that there is an imbalance in our boardrooms, but there is often a lack of action to redress it.
Women’s equality in business means different questions are asked, talent is broadened and a company environment has a mix of complementary skills and personalities. This should be more widely recognised and moved much higher up the list of priorities for business owners.
Maintain an entrepreneurial mindset
Sophie Walker stated that the Women’s Equality Party was created as a “non-partisan, collaborative politics that gives everyone a voice” – a familiar mantra of many entrepreneurs.
Many business owners start their company with the ambition to do things differently, and offer something new to their clients and customers. And it’s this entrepreneurial spirit and simple agenda that has been key to the WEP’s success.
If you want to make a dent in the industry you work in, you need to pave the way and do things differently, not feel compelled to make the same cultural choices or implement the same team structures. A high-performing team should always be made up of complementary skills and personalities.
There is no point having a team of people exactly the same – an equal gender mix leads to a wider range of people and personalities, which will ultimately be evident in the work you produce. If you have a great mix of talent, they’re more likely to stay and your business will thrive.
Role models matter
Young women like to see women in senior roles; not just see them, but hear their voices.
It can be inspiring to your team to have visible, audible proof of women’s equality, that there is room and scope for them to progress. In the same way that men have role models, women need to see females in positions of power. At the moment we’re telling them that those roles don’t exist for them.
Every business has untapped potential, but we need to give women the confidence to come forward and show what they can do. Just as this wave of new politics embodied in the WEP is allowing many young people to feel that they have a voice.
Natasha Murray is Managing Director at Havas Media