ACTION AND EQUALITY

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JAMES HERBERTSON, DIRECTOR
LONDON NEST | LONDON

I recently saw the film Hidden Figures. If you haven’t seen it, the story follows the lives of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, three African-American women working in the computing department at NASA in the Sixties...


What makes the movie so special was not that they helped the USA crack the scientific conundrum on how to get John Glenn in to orbit and bring him back to earth alive, but they had to fight against the prejudices of working in a man’s world and being black in an era of segregation.

Fast forward nearly fifty years and I am thankful that I do not live in a world dominated by such blatant inequalities. I really love that our industry has such great male and female leaders. How then, can I explain the statistic that Thom Jones alerted me to, in his Lead5050 article, that although women working in the schools and agencies outnumber men by over 3:1, only 12% of people on boards are women. This is incredible and sad in equal measures. I thought that bias was more akin to the banking industry than education. And then I thought back to the laddish drunken behaviour at various workshops that I have been witness to, where women in the industry are judged by appearance alone and I, sadly, have to agree that there is a problem in this industry.

I was introduced to the Lead5050 organisation by Hannah Alexander-Wright who has been working as a freelancer with London Nest recently. With her characteristically clear, intelligent and unsentimental understanding of international education, Hannah diagnosed pithily how the culture in international education has exacerbated the issue. From not having women representing a school in the Middle East as “our Saudi agents won’t like it”. To schools not promoting a woman by the assumption “as she has kids she won’t want to travel”.

Perhaps I am being paranoid, but in the same way you might cower in embarrassment at something your grandparents might say, which was acceptable back in the day, reading the Lead5050 articles have made me look at my own behaviour. Could I have done anything that could be seen as outright sexist? I know for certain that I am not above calling a woman “darling”, or to reference women collectively as girls, but I truly believe in gender equality and would hate for any clumsy words to detract from that. But do I do enough to empower women in the industry? I am proud that at my company, London Nest, the 3 managers we have in Marketing, Operations and Sales are all women. I may not actively take part in sexist banter, but have I ever stood up to it, have I ever stopped someone and told them that their behaviour isn’t OK? Supporting women shouldn’t be about the absence of action – there are no medals for not being sexist. Supporting women needs to be about action, about change and about creating an environment where, because of enhanced equality, our businesses thrive.

So join us, women and empathetic men, for an evening of “Coaching and Cava” that we are running on behalf of Lead5050 on Wednesday 9 August. Our partner David Game College is hosting the event in their new lecture theatre in Jewry Street, Hannah will be leading the coaching and I will be putting on the drinks. The event will give a safe environment to discuss the issues in our industry and to actively support each other.

Coaching and Cava is on Wednesday 9 August
Address: David Game College, 31 Jewry St, London EC3N 2ET

The event will be a first step to shine a light on practices in the industry and agree action to improve things for the future. I look forward to seeing you there.

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