London Stock Exchange welcomes Women's Network Forum

Today, London Stock Exchange welcomed The Duke of Edinburgh Award’s Women’s Network Forum, chaired by Her Royal Highness, The Countess of Wessex. The organisation celebrated its first public engagement about nurturing female talent and diversity in the workplace.

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The event encouraged broader understanding and fostered a call to action for companies to step up and create or realize the goals of building a more diverse workplace, particularly with female talent. Over the past three years, since the founding the Women's Network Forum, it has become more apparent to the members that we are actually still only at the start of our journey towards gender equality. In fact, the overall picture shows that in some areas, women are backsliding in progress.

Statistics captured by the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap Report include economic participation measurement in three areas: the participation gap, the remuneration gap and the advancement gap. The statistics are showing that the global gender gap is widening rather than narrowing. The economic gender gap in 2016 reverted back to where it stood in 2008, after a peak in 2013. According to the report, the global economic gender gap will not be closed for another 170 years while for all measures included in study, the gap will not close for another 83 years. This is just within the statistical lifetime of baby girls born today!

The business case for economic equality is clear. Recent estimates suggest that economic gender parity could add an additional US$240billion to the GDP of the United Kingdom alone. Women are a dominant consumer base representing 70-80% of consumer spending through buying or influence - that's climbing up towards $20 trillion globally. Further, studies have cited that organisations with inclusive cultures have greater innovation, creativity and bottom line results. Equality means opportunity which breeds success.

The occasion attracted a broad audience of senior management and mentees representing a diverse group of companies and industries. Also in attendance were representatives and Gold Award winners from The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. The breakfast event featured a keynote speech by Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, who spoke about “The Power of Equality”. Paul’s visionary views on a responsible business model are underpinned by not just gender balance internally at Unilever, but equally significant, the importance of women’s empowerment across Unilever’s value chain and with consumers.

Her Royal Highness, The Countess of Wessex, said:

'We are delighted to participate in opening the market at the London Stock Exchange today and to celebrate the importance of the retention and advancement of women in the workplace. The Women’s Network Forum is committed to bringing UK companies together to tackle the issues and challenges they face in creating a truly gender equal and inclusive workplace. Until women are well represented at all levels of business, we are missing the full effect of positive impact that women make in business and society.’

About the Women’s Network

The Women’s Network Forum was founded by HRH, The Countess of Wessex three years ago. It provides an opportunity for senior leaders from a variety of UK companies to discuss challenges and issues businesses face in attracting, developing, retaining and advancing women in the workplace. This cross-industry forum benefits through membership representation from a variety of industries, including, financial services, high technology, real estate, energy, consumer products, retail and manufacturing. Each member brings their unique experiences to the discussion, providing perspectives, best practices and suggesting opportunities for improvement for a variety of topics discussed. Topics addressed by the Forum have ranged from mentorship and sponsorship, agile working, gender parity through a cultural lens and unconscious bias, to name a few.