'Not the Normal Network' Leaders and Storytellers

WE LEAD, the Institute of Leadership and Management and the REP collaborated on this event looking at women’s leadership.

The event was introduced by WE LEAD Centre Director Professor Kiran Trehan, who said that there is a lot of research on the benefits of greater diversity and gender equality and what we need now is activity and solutions.

There was a fantastic panel discussion hosted by Janice Connelly, with Kiran Trehan, Tessa Walker (Associate Director at the REP), Kate Cooper (Head of Research, Policy and Standards, Institute for Leadership and Management) and Tracy Westall (Non-executive Director and Advisor). 

Firstly the panel discussed ‘In 2018 is leadership diversity still such an issue?’ Tracy Westall highlighted that even in the technology sector, which is a relatively new sector, only 17% of jobs are held by women and there is a 9% gender pay gap. Kiran added that in academia only 6% of professors are female and that only 1.5% of those are from ethnic minority backgrounds. The panel agreed that on the surface so much has changed but when you peel away the layers these statistics show that systems and processes still pose a challenge. The audience felt that boards need to be supportive but that boards normally create mirror images of themselves. Tracy raised an interesting point that women are usually promoted based on what they have done were as men are promoted based on their potential.

Janice Connelly then asked the question “where there are female CEO’s, why are they there?’ Tessa Walker said that there are more artistic directors than ever before. The panel agreed that it is important to have leaders that look like us and to develop networks that allow women to grow and develop. The best thing that a woman can do in a position of power is to advocate on others behalf and to be part of other women’s support networks.

The panel were then asked ‘what can we learn through stories in the cultural sector to advance the leadership agenda in businesses and small firms?’ In answer to this question the panel thought that the arts bring a new way of thinking and Kate Cooper pointed out that the arts provoke an emotional response which is not frowned upon. Finally the panel discussed some of the moments in their own careers that had been impacted by gender and what they would most like to see changed.

A clear message from the event was the importance of storytelling and WE LEAD will be doing further work with the arts sector to frame our work in an engaging way that is accessible to a wide audience. 

The Institute of Leadership and Management 

The REP