For Enterprise M3 Chief Executive Kathy Slack, diversity promotes greater collaboration and subsequently innovation – a process she calls the Enterprise M3 way. As a leading LEP when it comes to gender parity, here Kathy explains why #BalanceforBetter is so crucial to the organisation.
“By getting a real mix on your team and encouraging people to get involved, you can use diversity to get a real richness of debate, an energy in the room and importantly achieve a greater balance across people. And as a leader I take a collaborative approach. I’m open to new ideas, to providing role models and getting people to step forward to do different things and seeing what they can achieve when they step outside of the box. Amazing things happen!
“I am passionate about helping women get ahead. I know how my early lack of confidence and belief that you could only get ahead through mimicking male role models acted like a brake on my plans. In my early 30s, I didn’t dream that I would ever become a chief executive. Support from a line manager and fellow female colleagues made me realise that you can be yourself and you can achieve fantastic things. You don’t have to be hardnosed or aggressive, it’s about seeing things from other people’s shoes. I’m trying to get people to accelerate their learning, consider how they achieve greater balance and what they can be by following the right role models for them.”
Enterprise M3 is ahead of the curve, launching a recruitment drive, to recruit more members to its board last spring with a strong focus on diversity. Two new female members were successfully recruited - Stacey King, Group Regional Director for BT Group and Deborah Allen, Managing Director of Operational Governance at BAE Systems- bringing the total number of women on the board to five. The others are Kathy, Linda Cheung, Co-founder of Connectegrity and Julia Potts, Leader of Waverley Borough Council.
“The reason we didn’t have more women board members was partly a general lack of awareness of LEPs and a belief that our focus was on infrastructure which can perceived as male-dominated. We want to get across that our work is varied going far beyond roads and building to considering innovation, skills and our long-term growth as set out in our Strategic Economic Plan. We need people that can help us influence, communicate and promote the area and how we draw in investment, through enterprise, innovation and global thinking.
“We need to reach out and encourage people to sit on the board, to get a real diversity of thinking. We know that a female chief executive and active board members provide a supportive environment to encourage people to step forward. We are working proactively with our partner organisations, local authorities and education providers, to get across the sheer diversity of what the LEP does, as well as the benefits to both the LEP and our partners, of having more diversity on our board.
“People are vital and to stay ahead with new thinking you’ve got to develop your staff, encourage them to do new things and help them on their journeys to reach their potential. Nowadays, Women are far more involved and engaged in understanding the art of the possible. I’m hopeful about change but we need to put some speed into it. Stimulating the debate about balance in the workforce is the starting point.”