Diversity across a decade

With eleven days left of a turbulent ten years, I’m following the fashion of reflection but looking ahead to the promise of the impending Twenties. In January 2010 I was comfortable in a senior financial position with a FTSE 100 subsidiary. Today, I’m in the process of writing my fifth book (fiction) and awaiting publication of my fourth (non-fiction), loving my emerging profile as a speaker, managing the ups and downs of a freelance consultant’s life, and enjoying my work with Teesside University Business School. It’s been a decade of change personally, too. My toddlers are now at secondary school, and all of their grandparents have passed away. We lost a whole generation of our immediate family in the space of five years. The pressure that such personal change exerts on working life is extraordinary, and it has been a factor in my choice of, or more accurately need for, a freelance career. Combining the care responsibilities of the sandwiched generation with regular work and founder roles is an almost impossible tightrope, and has a large part to play both in the lack of diversity we have seen in business to date, and the new awareness of a need for change.

There is far more attention now than ten years ago on a need for diversity and the lack of female and other minority role models in business, but not enough recognition of the juggling act that goes on behind the scenes. It is telling that in that January a decade ago when the company I worked for was taken over, my colleagues and I looked at the board of men in the London office of the new parent and the board of women in the local northern subsidiary, and checked our redundancy clauses. Sure enough, within a very short time our roles were indeed redundant, and we were unsurprised. The journey that followed, from digital marketing agency Divario through co-founding and growing software development startup Ambix, and on to my current roles was a learning experience not only in terms of skills, building a layer of technical knowledge and communication skills onto my professional background, but in dealing with attitudes to diverse needs and flexibility. In the early years, presenteeism and strength won the day. As time went on, attitudes changed. The work of organisations like 50:50 Future, Northumbria University’s Executive Programme for Women Leaders, the Institute of Directors’ flagship Women on Board group in the region, and the publication this year of Caroline Criado Perez’ extraordinary book Invisible Women, have brought gender diversity discussions and action to the fore. This can only be positive.

My hope as we enter 2020 is that the coming decade will expose and find solutions for the roots of such inequality in all its forms. In the process we can improve the diversity of our businesses, educational institutions and government, and of the innovative products and services which are changing our lives.

Originally published via LinkedIn Pulse, December 2019 https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/diversity-across-decade-kate-baucherel/

Kate Baucherel