Closing the gender say gap: Why business needs more visible women

OPINION: The CEO of marcomms agency Man Bites Dog says that businesses and women have a responsibility to step forward.

by Claire Mason
Last Updated: 08 Feb 2019

Gender equality is having a moment. From gender pay gap reporting to the first anniversary of the #MeToo movement, shining a light on inequality is changing the standards society will tolerate.

But these critical milestones are just symptoms of a much bigger issue: the 'Gender Say Gap' – the invisibility of women and other diverse groups in business and in public life.

Society has failed to acknowledge a quiet revolution. For the last decade women have outnumbered men in high-status professions. We are disproportionately the experts in the room, so why aren’t we hearing from female authorities? And why do the leaders of today have such a critical role to play in closing the Gender Say Gap?

The absence of women’s voices, ideas and insights is the elephant in every room: particularly the boardroom. In a world where even Hollywood’s leading ladies lack parity of dialogue, what are we teaching the next generation about women’s right to speak?

Come to Management Today's Inspiring Women in Business conference in Edinburgh on 7 March. Speakers include the former leader of the Scottish Labour party Kezia Dugdale and advertising legend Dame Cilla Snowball, chair of the Women's Business Council. Book your tickets here

But times are changing. From public figures like London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has refused to participate in manels (all male panel debates), to the BBC’s call for more women speakers, it seems the world has finally noticed that the female experts are missing.

And this really matters. Because women can’t be what they can’t see. Just one in ten secondary school children can name a famous woman working in technology - is that because we don’t exist or because of the Gender Say Gap?

Talent shortages will be compounded if young women can’t see their future in the professions that shape our society and protect our planet. What innovations will we miss out on as a result? We need a diversity of ideas - and women and other diverse groups are a critical part of that equation.

Business leaders have a tremendous opportunity to unleash the power of diverse thinkers and speakers for the benefit of their company and society. But it’s a two-way street. If we’re to make a step change in women’s visibility, women need to step forward and embrace opportunity.

Claire Mason is Founder and CEO marketing communications and thought leadership consultancy Man Bites Dog.

She will be discussing the Gender Say Gap at Management Today's Inspiring Women in Business Edinburgh conference on 7th March 2019. Speakers include the former leader of the Scottish Labour party Kezia Dugdale and advertising legend Dame Cilla Snowball, chair of the Women's Business Council. Book your tickets here

Image credits: AlexLinch/gettyimages


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