Ahead of the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open teeing off at Dundonald Links tomorrow, a number of high profile speakers including Ruth Davidson, Leader of the Scottish Conservatives and Unionist Party, Elaine C Smith, actress and comedian and Sir Clive Woodward, English former Rugby Union player and coach assembled at the North Ayrshire venue for the Aberdeen Asset Management Leadership Forum: Putting gender on the agenda: insights from the top.
The event, which took place in the tournament pavilion, explored the opportunities and challenges for women in business, politics, entertainment and sport. Speakers drew upon personal experiences and explored how to drive change.
Ms. Davidson spoke about the criticism female politicians face on social media:
“Yes we get criticised a lot, and I think part of the rise of our individual and collective, sort of rise within Scottish politics has come along at the same time as the rise of social media and therefore there is more abuse that is publically available to see”
She also discussed the need to get more women into politics, by properly getting across what politics is all about: “There are people who think that politics is all that you see on the television, so they think that the only part to politics is me shouting at Nicola, Nicola shouting back at me, me shouting back at Nicola and we all go home having had a good shout. And they don’t see the work that happens collaboratively. They see it as a confrontational existence rather than a collaborative existence. They don’t see the work that goes on in committees, the work that happens cross-party to bring an issue to the fore.”
Other speakers on Ruth’s panel, ‘empowering women in business and politics’, included Petra Wetzel, entrepreneur and founder of WEST Brewery, Rachel Short, Director at Why Women Work, and Lucy O'Carroll, Chief Economist, Aberdeen Asset Management. The panel was moderated by Sarah Smith.
Actress and comedian, Elaine C Smith then spoke to Sarah Smith about progressing in the entertainment industry as a woman: “All the people ahead of me were men. So comedy is a male domain. I was always the one woman with the four guys. I generally felt very alone, wanted to be liked, wanted to be nice, didn’t want to rock the boat too much. I’ve learned different now. But then there was that desire in young woman to be liked, to be popular, to not say anything with all these talented men around about you as well. Now when I look back, I don’t really understand where I got the confidence.”
She also discussed the huge emphasis on women’s looks in the industry:
“Too many of my female counterparts, who are very talented, worry too much about whether they’ll be attractive.”
Former England rugby coach, Sir Clive Woodward spoke about the need to get more women into coaching positions: “From a coaching point of view, one of the biggest opportunities in sports or leadership is to get more women involved in coaching of the actual sports themselves. I would encourage any sport, if you’re on the governing body of a sport, to really put a huge amount of emphasis on how we can more females coaching.”
He also discussed women’s rugby: “In 2003 when we won the World Cup the women’s game was definitely there. But they were totally amateur. There was no money in the game. The whole world of rugby has done really well in terms of warming women’s rugby and the last World Cup was a phenomenon success. The biggest step forward has been the sevens and the Olympics.”
Other speakers on Sir Clives panel ‘Leveling the playing field: how we can promote female leadership in sport’ included Sheila Begbie, Head of women's and girls' rugby at Scottish Rugby, Hala Ousta, Head of Diversity at the SFA, and Beth Allen, professional golfer.
Martin Gilbert, Chief Executive of Aberdeen Asset Management closed proceedings at the event, that was attended by over 120 people to reiterate Aberdeen Asset Management’s commitment to get more women into leadership positions, as signatories of the Women in Finance Charter.
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