Last week, School of Grazia took on male dominated business - and, boy, did we say it for the girls. At oh-so-stylish Altitude, a stone’s throw from Westminster, we invited four female industry experts, along with award-winning Guardian journalist Decca Aitkenhead as our host, to speak to Grazia readers about succeeding in a man’s world. It went down a storm.
On Monday evening, sipping champagne and nibbling canapés, we debated, tackled and rugby tackled everything from dressing and (depressingly) trying to avoid being judged on what you wear, to sex discrimination and what to do about it.
Cilla Snowball, Niamh Corbett, Decca Aitkenhead, Helen Skelton and Poppy Allonby at School of Grazia
Our spirited speakers were Niamh Corbett, a banker, mentor and 30% club steering committee member, Poppy, TV presenter Helen Skelton, Cilla Snowball CBE, Group Chairman and Group Chief Executive of AMV BBDO advertising and communications group, and Poppy Allonby, a fund manager and managing director on the Natural Resources Equity Team at BlackRock.
The mood was uplifting. A fun, yet by no-means light-hearted discussion made the night a success, with everyone having an opinion to share. Almost 100 Grazia readers came along to join in the debate and get advice from the esteemed panel.
And, with the focus of the debate centred around women breaking through that perpetual glass ceiling, talk inevitably turned to quotas.
“The trouble with quotas is it creates an optical illusion,” Niamh told the audience. “What it does in the short term is make it look like the solution has been found, but it hasn’t changed business culture.
“I think the argument for and against quotas are at this stage a distraction, because suddenly we’re finding ourselves where we were three years ago - still arguing and not taking action. A quota system is not going to create stable change.”
And change is what we need. From hearing the stories of panellists and readers alike on Monday, there is still so much do to for women in business. But what was hearteningly clear was that, despite the situation we still face in the workplace, we are more determined than ever to get to the top.