The Great Balancing Act

Every day is balancing act for many of us. Many women will be simultaneously trying to balance family life with a career, perhaps constantly feeling they’re not succeeding in either arena. We try to have a balanced and healthy approach to how we look after ourselves – both in what we eat and our physical activity. Striking the right ‘work-life’ balance is high on the agenda for men and women alike.

But in our attempts to balance everything in our own lives, are we missing the wider point?

Imbalance is all around us and ingrained in the culture of business and society. From the imbalanced representation of ethnic minorities in many industries, to the imbalance of pay between the highest and lowest paid – you don’t have to look very far to find examples.

It is pertinent therefore that the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) is ‘balance for better’. For us, IWD is everyday.  Many of the headlines around gender imbalance relate to what’s going on at boardroom level. The most recent stats showing some improvement – with the annual Hampton-Alexander Review in 2018 reporting that just five companies in the FTSE 350 Index have no women at the top table, down from eight in 2017 and a whopping 152 in 2011, there is still a long way to go to achieving better gender balance at all levels.

Because let’s not forget that the boardroom is only one snapshot – imbalance between the genders can be seen across all levels.  You only need to look to the recent employment dispute between Asda and its female checkout workers – this case is just one example where inequality has been found and ruled on by the court and having highlighted an imbalance issue, has the potential to be precedent setting across many other sectors.

Gender imbalance is clearly an issue for the individual workers that suffer as a result and securing fairer pay for all is only right and just. But businesses themselves shouldn’t need legislation or court action to want to strike a better balance.  There is a business case for doing this

Let’s reminder ourselves of the compelling case for a balanced workforce.  Findings in the McKinsey report ‘Delivering growth through diversity’ confirm a representative workforce is nothing but beneficial for a business. Its 2017 dataset found companies with the highest executive-level diversity had a 21% chance of outperforming those with the lowest and a 27% chance of higher long-term value creation.

A Credit Suisse report found that companies with more than one woman on their board returned a compound 2% over those with none — and that companies with more women at the board or top management level exhibit higher returns on equity, higher valuations and also higher payout ratios.

And so on.

We’re glad to see the recognition that balance isn’t just a women’s issue – but one that will benefit business – and society – as a whole.

Imagine a world where we weren’t trying to fight for equality between the sexes – we could collaboratively focus our efforts on much wider issues – the environment, sustainability, achieving a fairer distribution of wealth.

That is the type of balance that really would be for the better.