7 March 2019

On International Women's Day, Professor Susan Murphy reflects on the benefits of women's networks in business.
Women working in an office

The theme of this year's International Women's Day is #BalanceforBetter, making the point that gender balance drives a better working world. There's still work to do in company boardrooms, democratic structures, and the media, but there is reason to be hopeful for the future.

This week we learned that the UK is making progress on gender equality in the workplace, but it continues to lag behind other developed countries. PwC's Women in Work report sees the UK move up a position but still only rank 13 out of 33. Iceland, Sweden, and New Zealand took the top three spots, using measurements such as pay equality and proportion of women in full-time employment.

The Business School's first graduate, in 1919, was a woman—Margaret Stevenson Miller, who went on to gain national recognition for her work, but in a sign of those times she was dismissed from her job after her marriage.

The world has thankfully moved on and the Business School continues to lead the way. Our MBA is the third-most gender-balanced programme in the Financial Times Top 100. 58 per cent of our students and 43 per cent of our faculty are women.

A big issue that remains is the lack of gender balance in senior roles in business. How many women chief executives or finance directors can you name? There's clearly a need to improve career pathways, to encourage and support women into these roles. That's why I'm proud to have co-founded the Executive Women's Leadership Programme, launched in 2016. More than 150 women have gone through the programme, from private and public organisations, securing promotions and career advancement. It has also helped build a strong network of women who support and encourage each other, which in turn strengthens our economy.

In these turbulent times, having strong networks has never been more important. So on this International Women's Day, consider how you can reach out to colleagues or peers and provide that support.

Susan Murphy

Professor Susan Murphy is Chair in Leadership Development at the University of Edinburgh Business School.