I took part in the East Sussex Women in Business awards a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been to a fair number of awards ceremonies, most of them focusing on the female business community, and I was somewhat shocked by this one.
It took place in a pleasant hotel in Eastbourne, the room was full of women in glamorous dresses, and a few men. A charming master of ceremonies, an attractive local business woman to read out the award nominations. All pretty much as I’d expect … until the speeches started. EVERY one of the speakers was a man. The keynote sponsors announced proudly that 57 out of their 60-something employees were women – but still they had a man to represent the business. One of the speakers even used the phrase ‘behind every strong man is a stronger woman’.
It says something pretty bad about the event organisers and/or the local business community that this was acceptable. I know there is no shortage of inspiring women in the local area – perhaps the event organisers just aren’t tapped in to the right network. Perhaps they didn’t realise that we are well past the point of needing men to speak on our behalf? Whatever the reason, it was a disappointing event from this point of view. A women in business event isn’t just about giving awards to women: it also needs to allow women a voice.