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What happened at our International Women’s Day Debate?

How can business inspire the next generation of female business leaders? That’s the question writer and broadcaster Sue Cameron asked our panel at the latest Great Business Debate event, in partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Inspiring Women (08.03.16).

Speaking to a live audience of A Level students, business representatives and journalists, our panellists were:

  • Miriam González-Durántez, Inspiring Women champion
  • Neil Carberry, CBI Director, Employment, skills and public services
  • Jacqui Ferguson, SVP & General Manager, HPE, Enterprise Services UK&I and MEMA

We heard from Inspiring Women Champion Miriam González-Durántez that both company boards and executives must be engaged in the agenda if we are to drive change, while Neil Carberry emphasised the importance of improving gender diversity to business as a whole. Jacqui Ferguson shared her experiences as a senior woman working for technology solutions company Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Scroll down to read a full summary of what our panellists had to say:

Miriam 400 x400In her opening remarks, Miriam González-Durántez (Inspiring Women) argued that she was tired of talking about mentoring and sponsoring alone. There’s a real risk of underplaying the issue, she said, if those at the top of companies aren’t also doing two things. First, boards should ask why if women aren’t being promoted and second, they should ask executives to come up with a plan to fix the problem.

Miriam went on to highlight that government has a role to play and in particular, that caring responsibilities – of both children and older parents – still presented a major barrier.

Neil 400x400Neil Carberry (CBI) emphasised that improving gender diversity in business makes sense commercially as well as morally. Companies make better decisions and do better when there are more women in senior positions, he said.

Neil went on to argue that business needs to play a role in the public debate about these issues – they have a role to play in inspiring young women about all the options that are open to them, particularly vocational routes. Finally, Neil asserted that gender diversity is an issue for everyone in the workplace – it is not just a women’s issue, he said.

Jacqui 400 x400Jacqui Ferguson (HPE) shared her experiences as a senior woman working for technology solutions company Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Having worked for HPE for over 20 years, Jacqui told the audience that she has had the opportunity to travel the world in her job and that working in technology has given her interesting and varied experiences across lots of different industries.

Evidence suggests that having more women in business is good for companies and HPE takes this issue seriously, she said. HPE is doing lots to catch women early in their careers, she explained, for example sponsoring initiatives like TechFuture Girls, a coding club, and offering apprenticeships and graduate programmes, to help show that business and technology is not just for boys.

In the following audience Q&A, a number of themes emerged including how young girls of all backgrounds can get access and opportunities, how progress towards greater gender diversity can be sped up and some personal questions about what inspired our panellists to follow their career paths.


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