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BBC Inspiring Women

BBC Inspiring Women

By Emily Luscombe, Client Services Director

So the BBC has unveiled its 100 Inspiring Women 2020 – and I am not sure how to feel about it.

Coincidence, surely, that it arrives in the same week that Germany, that all-powerful of economic bellwethers – decides to mandate female representation on Boards. Because on this one metric, Germany is falling behind – with a pathetic 12% of the top listed companies citing a woman at the helm.

Is this a good thing, we ask ourselves? Ironic, perhaps, that one of the most successful Chancellors in Germany’s history is a woman, yet the (men) running her biggest companies argue “there simply isn’t the quality talent pool” available from which to recruit. They are furious at political intervention in an area they feel is not the Chancellor’s to dictate. Particularly at the end of a year when governments have, undisputedly, if not from choice, done an awful lot to curtail industry and commerce.

But all the research on positive discrimination suggests this type of equality mandate doesn’t work. It should be a level playing field to start with…we need to break down barriers for talent to rise up the ranks, regardless of gender, education, ethnicity, diversity. Only when a woman gets that job on genuine merit will we be succeeding in the pursuit of equality. Or it just becomes another stick with which to beat.

But Ms Merkel obviously thinks that the level playing field isn’t coming fast enough. And we’ve all seen the narrative about this year’s pandemic setting career women back – as much as 90 years, according to the Telegraph. Mums carrying the brunt of the lockdown childcare and disproportionate job losses. Hopefully for the short term, because if this year has brought one silver lining it’s that the City has been shown that ‘work from home’ doesn’t equate to ‘work less productively’. As a working mother myself,  2020 has seen me sat at my (virtual) desk for more hours of each day than ever before – such is the beauty of 3 hours’ commuting time gained. So ‘business’ has lost nothing there.

But back to the BBC and its Inspiring Women. Because they very much are. The presence of doctors, scientists, virologists, geneticists and public health campaigners coupled with human rights campaigners, feminists, anti-discrimination activists…speaks to a 2020 that has certainly been unique. Would we have counted teachers and nurses in our list of most inspiring people in any other year? I do hope so. Perhaps not, though, the crematorium technician from Nepal.

I read these profiles and feel awed by what some women – mothers, home- educators, carers of Coronavirus-struck relations – have managed to achieve in this most tumultuous of years. But am I more impressed BECAUSE they are women? I can relate to them perhaps – but it doesn’t feel right. In 2020, the year that the best brains in the world collaborated to find a vaccine in the greatest, fastest ever, global triumph in science …why are we still defining achievement on the grounds of gender?

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