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A virus is a great equaliser – it should bring us together…. by Tariq Siraj

This opinion piece in City AM caught my eye – I think the central point encapsulates what I’ve been thinking and what is perhaps the most important point to make amidst the whole corona virus pandemic.  A simple idea that is getting a little lost among the noise.

A great deal has been said and debated regarding Covid-19 so far – and will continue to be for a while yet of course – but aside from all the ever-changing statistics and forecasts…one indisputable constant is that we are all in this together. In fact if we were ever ‘all in this together’ it’s precisely now, during this event.

A virus doesn’t discriminate on political lines, it doesn’t only hang around poorer communities, there’s no immunity among the rich, it has no respect for national border lines or modes of travel. It’s the great equaliser.

As such, we need to work together.  Not just governments and national organisations and the WHO, but right down to the micro level – how we all treat each other. That’s perhaps even more important than the big decisions our leaders make.

You can worry without panicking, and you can isolate without being selfish.

To paraphrase the article, the best thing we can all do, beyond washing our hands, is to be generous, patient and supportive towards each other. If we use that approach in everything we do that is probably the best and most effective way to combat this thing.


Is the “Broken Rung” the real barrier to women’s progression in the workplace? by Catriona Cookson

Much has been written about the Glass Ceiling and the progress of women in breaking through to senior leadership roles. McKinsey & Co, and its Women in the Workplace 2019 studies finds that since 2015 the number of women in senior leadership has grown, particularly in the C Suite. More women are becoming senior leaders, through both promotion and external hiring.

So far so good …. however McKinsey research also showed that progress is constrained by a “broken rung” …. the first step up to manager. For every 100 men promoted and hired to manager, there are only 72 women in a similar position. With men holding 62% of manager level positions and women just 38%, this “broken rung” of early inequality has a long-term impact on the talent pipeline…. putting it simply there are just too few women in the pool to advance.

So what’s the solution? ……McKinsey suggest 5 steps to addressing the “broken rung”, from setting targets for the number of women at first level management to ensuring that women gain the opportunities to raise their profile and so enhance their chance of promotion. The unconscious bias section is an interesting one …. pointing out that while many companies have this in place for senior level roles, they are much less likely to have unconscious bias training in place at entry level / early careers level.

McKinsey also found that 87% of companies are highly committed to gender diversity, compared to 56% in 2012. However, only half of employees think gender diversity is a high priority for their company and that hasn’t changed over the last five years.

The survey and research were based in the US, although I imagine it would be broadly similar here in the UK. The numbers of young women entering the professions including management consultancy, law, medicine, accounting etc. has increased dramatically. It must be 50/50 by now or not far off ……but this” broken rung” theory is significant. Addressing and fixing it makes good business sense…the only way to meet the gender pay gap requirements is to not only hire but retain and promote women through the ranks.

If young women are missing out on early promotions …is there a training / coaching element to address? Are they capable yet not promoting their talents? Is it a question of confidence rather than ability? Do they need to take more risk, be bolder? If so, perhaps we at BLT can help – our career coaching division offers coaching for individuals and corporates across a spectrum of topics. Do get in touch if you would like to find out more, please contact Liz Watt on


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Change And Flexibility Have To Land On The Right-Side Of The Brain – by Davey Peyton

Management consulting, by its very nature, has had to constantly change and adapt with the times to always ensure it offers clients the best ways to stay ahead of the curve. Whether or not it has always managed this successfully is up for debate, but with every change in the working world consultancies have been there to help understand and exploit new ideas and technologies to further their clients best interests.

This article from Forbes – about strategy consulting specifically – illustrates an interesting point. It asks;

  • Have they always structured their advice in the most useful way possible?
  • Is there room for more effective solutions by using a ‘whole-brain whole-person’ approach?

This inclusionary approach relates to the more creative/intuitive right side of the brain and everything else making up a person’s decision making, their emotions and their moral viewpoints.

I’m not qualified to answer those questions above – as interesting as they might be – but it did lead me to think about the opportunities for wholesale change in other areas of work.

With COVID-19 effecting everyone everywhere, more and more companies are taking the opportunity to test and use large scale working-from-home initiatives. It will be interesting to see if this potential new system outlasts COVID-19 and ushers in a rapid uptake of large scale WFH. However, as discussed here, it seems there are concerns about the impact of this potential move. The solution posed by working-from-home may not be without significant cost, not only the bottom line but employee wellbeing as well.

This brings us back to the suggested changes in consulting. Are all the initiatives as well thought-out as they should be with regard to employee wellness? The idea of taking your laptop home and doing the same job you’d do at your desk with added technology to help with virtual meetings and conference calls seems perfect, but it leaves more questions in relation to the right side of your brain. How do you turn off from work? Is creativity reduced or improved depending on your work place? and is the lack of social interaction causing issues and miscommunication?

Adaptability and flexibility are topics that always attract us and there is more and more emphasis placed upon them – but it’s important they are implemented in the right way.

We are always interested to hear about the new and innovative solutions our clients are introducing to accommodate people so please do let us know if your company has any benefits you feel should be adopted by more of the market. If however you feel your current role isn’t offering the flexibility you’d like we would certainly be happy to discuss where you might be able to find it.

  • Davey Peyton

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What’s really holding women back at work? by Catriona Cookson

International Women’s Day has been celebrated on March 8th since 1913. With the World Economic Forum predicting that the gender pay gap won’t be closed until 2186, this is an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review from two professors and their work with a global consulting firm. Retained by the firm to investigate why women were leaving and why they weren’t making it to partner they set about interviewing staff and gathering the data.

Most of the narrative around this assumes the long hours required to reach the highest promotions don’t fit with women and their family life and so their career stalls.

Is this really true? The professors found that the long hours culture was as much a problem for men as for women, and there was virtually no difference in the staff turnover rate between men and women. Women were held back because unlike men they were encouraged to take accommodations including part time working and moving to internal roles. In an attempt to promote the careers of women, this didn’t solve the problem, it actually perpetuated it.

The real culprit they found was a culture of long hours, of overselling and overdelivering, of having consultants produce so much work, some of which was unnecessary. This affected everyone but had a disproportionate effect on women.

Well, needless to say the leaders at the consulting firm didn’t respond well to this …an uncomfortable truth is one they are used to delivering to clients but doesn’t sit well on their own doorstep! The professors hit a brick wall – the leaders of the firm could deflect responsibility for the lack of women partners on the grounds it is inevitable, men could justify the sacrifices they made in family life as inevitable and vice versa for women ……and all the while the long hours culture goes unchallenged.

There’s a lot more to take from this article, and it’s well worth a read. Its conclusion is a sensible one – what holds women back at work is not a unique challenge of balancing the demands of work and family life. It’s a general culture of corporate overwork in which women pay higher professional costs. To make working life better for women, we need to also make it better for men. Men need to work reasonable hours, take their paternity leave, and their shared parental leave. In doing so, their own working experience is enhanced, their families and friends will see the benefit and in turn, there’s a greater opportunity of workplace equality for women.

Is this achievable? …..there’s no reason why not …..but EVERYONE has a responsibility to make it happen.

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Extremes of the Gender Gap: Automation and Role Models – by Tariq Siraj

It’s International Women’s Day on Sunday 8th March – a day to celebrate the incredible progress that has been made in so many areas. However, it’s also a good moment to take a look at what still needs to be done…

Apparently we’re over 100 years away from true gender parity in the global economy according to the  World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Report. Whichever metrics one prefers to use, that is a grossly high figure.

At one end of the scale is education where it is forecast to take just 12 years, while at the other end we are still over 250 years away in the area of ‘economic participation and opportunity’ where things have actually regressed from the previous year.

The revolution of higher and higher female participation has taken place alongside a tech revolution whereby more and more roles at the lower levels become subject to automation. Female participation numbers are also still very low in areas with the greatest wage growth such as cloud computing (12%), engineering (15%) and data & AI (26%).

For these reasons among others, Malayah Harper and Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen – two of the world’s leading women’ rights champions – push the idea that feminist leadership holds the key to true gender equality. The explore the development sector specifically, but essentially argue that cultural transformation is key; tackling the roots of sexism and creating a set of feminist principles to operate by.

This is a delicate balancing act. Positive discrimination which can be damaging in its own right, but the ‘role model effect’ is clearly important – not just as a way to inspire participation, but also to clear a path for progression.

Achieving the actual participation is one thing, but having something achievable and meaningful to aim for is becoming even more important.

  • Tariq

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Photo: UN Women / Ryan Brown / CC BY-NC-ND

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