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International Women’s Day: Gender has no bearing on being the best

By Laurna Woods

I look forward to the day when there’s no need for International Women’s Day. I look forward to a time when the strides the communications sector has made on equality have been matched throughout industry.

In business, I am blind to gender. If you are good enough, of course you should be able to succeed. I always look at people and make decisions based on their individual abilities. Beattie looks for strengths, what a person can bring to the party.

We want the best, no matter their gender, race, sexuality, whatever.

And I believe the opportunity women have to shine in the communications industry is one reason why we make up the majority of professionals in the sector. It’s simply more attractive than businesses where women are treated badly.

Discrimination, sexual or otherwise, and the gender pay gap are real problems in some business sectors – but that’s never been the case at Beattie.

Our leadership team has more women than men. That may reflect the gender split within PR and marketing but we have people in those positions because they have earned them, regardless of sex, race or age. It’s all about ability, and that’s the way it should be.

Many of our key performers juggle motherhood and caring for their children with maintaining and growing their careers. We have been a very supportive organisation through their pregnancies and maternity leave, but these driven women come back to work even stronger because they want to continue their careers. Their performance does not dip, it increases.

The determination of these women to succeed is an inspiration to me, the way they thrive the more responsibility they have, both personal and professional.

We don’t have a female-oriented leadership by design – it’s by virtue of talent, determination to succeed and an ability to multi-task.

That’s not to say that the men who work here do not have those qualities. It’s all about equality of opportunity and my male colleagues would not be here if they could not demonstrate the skills and abilities needed to succeed.

You’ll find 64 per cent of PR workers are women and I have been fortunate to have been part of and now to be leading an open-minded culture. But many other industries are not so forward-thinking; the whole women’s movement has made huge progress, even in just the past year, in helping with that.

Ending sexism in the workplace and closing the gender pay gap should not be difficult to achieve. All it takes is common sense. If someone is good enough, they deserve the opportunity. If they are good enough, they deserve the best rate of pay. The gender pay gap is ridiculous.

I suppose I am lucky, having come into the industry in the 1990s, when many of the battles for equality had already been fought. Women already had the vote, the Equal Pay Act was in place – if not being obeyed – and there were laws against discrimination.

I’ve never to have had to fight for equal opportunities and pay in my career or when I’ve championed colleagues – because they are not issues at Beattie.

Every time I was promoted, to account manager, to account director, and to chief executive, it was because I had demonstrated my ability and our founder, Gordon Beattie, had faith in me. The fact I’m a woman never came into it.

But I have seen plenty of evidence of the struggle women face during my two decades working with clients across most sectors of business and industry.

I have been proud to be able to play my part in supporting organisations such as our client Everywoman, the network which helps women develop their careers in business. Its founders Maxine Benson and Karen Gill are among the most inspiring tremendous campaigners and supporters of women in business you will ever find.

My ultimate role model is the co-founder of Specsavers, ultra-successful entrepreneur and mother Dame Mary Perkins. She has long been a champion of women in business – especially her own business.

I look forward to the day when inspiring women like Maxine, Karen and Dame Mary can say: “Job done.”