Expert women, please put your hands up!

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Last week I blogged on an excellent day out at an ICAEW Business Futures day. This week I am going to have a rant about the same event!

I am pleased to say that the day was expertly anchored and facilitated by Konnie Huq, of Blue Peter fame, who is also an Economics graduate. But why, oh why, did the male organisers not give us any female subject-matter-experts?

Girls – do you know that sinking feeling half way through a conference when you realise you’ve heard only male voices, and do you reel in horror when a glance down the programme reveals there is only more of the same to come?

Guys – do you realize what you’re doing when you leave us off the podium? How you make us feel frustrated, disenfranchised, under-valued and invisible?

Naturally, I spoke my mind, collaring the poor guys responsible for an otherwise-exceptional day at lunchtime and challenging them about the lack of women. They’d done a fantastic job in engaging our younger members to attend the event, with the floor close to a 50:50 split by gender and refreshingly multi-coloured. So why was the podium so different?

Their response only made things worse, highlighting even more clearly the bias that they hadn’t been aware of. The brief discussion included them saying they hadn’t realized what they’d done, trying to reassure me (before realizing how that it made things even worse) that there would be plenty of women in the afternoon as part of the fashion show (I kid you not!), and mumbling that they had rung a woman and she hadn’t rung back.

We know most men care. We know you don’t do it on purpose. But please try harder. It can feel really exhausting, doing a fantastic job to build a career, but all too often hitting our heads on glass ceilings. We need more female (and minority) role models. We need those in charge to seek proportionate representation. It’s not good enough to say “Well we called one woman but she never called back”!

Seriously, I have sympathy for the poor organisers. It can be hard to find expert women. As much as mainly-male organisers might naturally gravitate towards mainly-male speakers, perhaps women don’t put themselves forward as readily as do men. After all, many workplace roles have been designed primarily by men and perhaps expert women are less confident than their male counterparts, about taking time out from the day job to speak; perhaps fearing their commitment to the day job is more likely to be questioned.

I was thrilled to be able to put my male colleagues in touch with Penny Haslam, who runs an agency for expert women, encouraging and supporting them to get involved in the media and speaking events. With Penny’s help I hope we will have a better balance next time. But we do need expert women to actually realize they are experts and then to put their hands up. So, all you expert women reading this, please do it! Please look out for opportunities to speak, inspire and lead us, and to show men and women alike that expert women are worth our salt.

If you need any #Tax speakers or general advice for you and your business, please do let me know. Email



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