Sunday, 10 November 2013

Celebrating women in business

On 8th November, lawyer Fiona Woolf became the 686th Lord Mayor of the City of London, representing a significant milestone in the role of women in leadership.

She is the second woman to take the role as Head of the City of London Corporation since 1189 and first female Lord Mayor this century. Interviewed by the BBC, she said that this special moment “shows the sustainability of women in a senior role” and that “businesses need to capture the innovation and ideas that difference within the talent pool generates.”

Celebrating women in business

Marking Fiona Woolf's first full day in the office as Head of the City of London Corporation, yesterday saw 'The Lord Mayor's Show'. This is a traditional 3-mile parade (from Guildhall to St Paul's Cathedral and on to the Royal Courts of Justice) that involves thousands of participants representing different businesses and organisations, and welcoming the City's new Lord Mayor. The event changes every year to reflect the interest of the new Lord Mayor as well as the evolution of society.

This year, around 150 organisations - from the energy, financial services, transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, leisure, charities, military, etc – participated in the procession. 

For the first time in the history of this show, women had their own float, 'Women in the City & Livery'. Fifty female professionals from the UK, Europe, USA, Malaysia and China were there to represent the importance of gender diversity for business success*.

I like to think of Fiona Woolf's new leadership position, as well as the participation of these fifty professional women in the parade yesterday, as two important ways to recognise the relevance that women professional success can play in the achievement of better business performance.

According to an article published on 'The Lord Mayor's Show Programme' (distributed yesterday throughout the event):

[Fiona Woolf] has undoubtedly been a pathfinder and role model for many women lawyers and professionals.

In 2011, the International Alliance for Women awarded her the World of Difference 100 Award, which recognises the economic empowerment and advancement of women worldwide. She also received the Trailbblazers Award from the City Women's Network. This year, Fiona received the inaugural Outstanding Achievement Award at the Euromoney Women in Business Law Awards.

'These days women can do anything' she says simply. 'I am always nervous about gender stereotypes because we all have examples that disprove the rule. However, in countries that are not used to dealing with women, you probably have to work harder to establish your credibility, that you are a professional.”

In the year head, Fiona Woolf will be the international ambassador for UK-based financial and business related services. Locally, she will visit a variety of core business centres in order to represent the voice of the industry effectively to decision makers. Globally, she will be leading business delegations during international visits to help boost trade and develop business relationships. She will also welcome visits from foreign business leaders on behalf of the UK government, addressing around 10,000 people every month and delivering 700 speeches in the region.

In the Mayoral programme, Fiona reported her vision for the future. This includes a focus on people and capital, long-term value creation, the recognition that "we are in a 'new normal' and business as usual is never a guarantee of future success", as well as a view of the world as an "economy of cities."

I wish Fiona a wonderful career as Head of the City of London Corporation. 

*I would particularly like to thank my colleague Silvia CambiĆ© – a great business woman who deservedly was invited to be one of the fifty female professionals marching in the parade – and who, with Marc Wright, invited me to attend the show and post-ceremony networking event.