Tag Archives: equality

The politics of power in (ir)responsible business

Birkbeck’s Responsible Business Centre seminar series discusses gender inequality and the mechanisms through which men and masculinities maintain their dominance in marketing and consumer research.

The second in the series of Birkbeck’s Responsible Business Centre research seminars was focused on the politics of power in (ir)responsible business: Men, masculinities and transnational patriarchies and the case of marketing and consumer research.

The seminar was led by Dr Wendy Hein, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, Birkbeck University of London. Dr Hein was joined by Professor Jeff Hearn from Hanken School of Economics, Finland, who recently co-authored a chapter in the book: ‘The Routledge Companion to Marketing and Feminism.’.

Transnational patriarchies are complex, structural and material issues that remain despite efforts of business to increase a focus on gender and intersectionality. Dr Hein provided perspectives on these structural and material complexities by naming and addressing transnational male-dominated patriarchies.

Increase in women’s representation = increase in young men’s crime?

Dr Hein began the seminar with a quote from Nick Fletcher MP, who made a speech at Westminster on International Men’s Day 25th November 2021.

“In recent years we have seen Doctor Who, Ghostbusters, Luke Skywalker, The Equalizer, all replaced by women, and men are left with the Krays and Tommy Shelby. Is there any wonder we are seeing so many young men committing crime?”

Dr Hein argued that while the cultural sphere has evolved, it has done so as a result of decades and histories of under-representation. Although representation has increased, this does not imply that women are equally represented. There are still industries and sectors where women are underrepresented in terms of roles and participation.

How important is gender equality?

Achieving gender equality is central to development, as Dr Hein explained by presenting the report findings from the UN: ‘Reaching gender-equal educational attainment and labour force participation would add US$4.4 trillion to global GDP by 2030’ which would in turn help to reduce poverty.

Gender equality is also critical in driving sustainable development in areas such as providing equal access to family planning and education on land rights and sustainability.

Gender inequality is still prevalent today and gender relations are still characterised by various types of male dominance on a global/transnational scale. Dr Hein put this into focus by discussing the reports that Afghanistan has recently banned girls from attending school. Women also remain the main care workers in positions that are unpaid. According to a report by Oxfam 2020 ‘women and girls put in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work each day—a contribution to the global economy of at least US$10.8 trillion a year, more than three times the size of the global tech industry’.

What is patriarchy or transpatriarchy and how does this relate to marketing?

The majority of research in marketing is about men and produced by men. As a result, men are often mentioned in the context of consumer culture but rarely gendered, thus forming an ‘absent presence’.

Dr Hein then discussed the role of patriarchy in transnational markets, including the worldwide flow of products, services, and finance. As a result, there is worldwide wealth inequality and international migration is widespread.

Dr Hein concluded the seminar by emphasising the importance of maintaining momentum on debates on critical study of men, masculinities and transpatriarchies. There is a greater need than ever before, since the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Report stated that the ‘impact of Covid-19 has set gender equality back by another generation. It is now believed that it will take 135.6 years to reach gender equality’.

The focus of research should be on the superior position of transnational media, as well as transnational influence in private and public spheres. Unless we tackle these growing inequities and transnational structural inequalities, true sustainability will remain a goal for future generations.

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Advice for aspiring professors and managers

This post was contributed  by Bryony Merritt from Birkbeck’s Department of External Relations.

For those looking to take the next step in their careers, learning about the experiences of those already in the roles we aspire to can be both encouraging and enlightening.

TRIGGER‘s latest event enabled staff from across Birkbeck and other Bloomsbury colleges to hear first-hand from four women (Sarah Winmill, Director of IT for Professional Services, UCL; Sarah Hart, Professor of Mathematics, Birbkeck; Simona Immarino, Professor of Economic Geography and Head of Department, LSE; Eleanor Mongey, Head of Student Servcies, Birkbeck) who have achieved professional succes as academics, professional services staff and academic managers.

Dr Belinda Brooks-Gordon, Assistant Dean for Equalities in Birkbeck’s School of Science, chaired the panel and began by asking the four women about their idea of what success looks like, mentors they’d had, and what advice they would give to their younger selves.

Being true to their values, bringing the best out of people and being seen as a role model were all cited as markers of success for the panel. Eleanor Mongey reflected that earlier in her career path she had measured success by promotions or securing a permanent contract, but feels now that her focus at that time was too narrow and she failed to recognise other types of achievement.

All of the women could identify individuals who had contributed to their professional journeys, whether as supportive managers or through mentoring. Professor Hart (who was one of only five female mathematics professors under 40 in the UK when she was made a professor two years ago) said that nearly all her promotions had come as a result of a manager suggesting she apply for the post. Now, as managers, the panelists recognised that they have a responsibility to identify talent within their teams and to encourage and reward it.

Failure was also a theme in the discussion, but in a surprisingly positive way. Learning to accept failure was seen as important, as was creating an environment where is is safe to fail, so that staff feel empowered to be creative and push their own boundaries.

An audience member asked the panel to identify one policy that would have helped them earlier in their careers. Professor Immarino was emphatic: we need culture change. The other panelists’ examples certainly fitted in with with this assertion. Sarah Winmill said that it is beholden on all of us to work our hours and only our hours, and not to put meetings in the first/last hour of the day so that those with caring responsibilities can attend. Professor Immarino said that academic promotions should rely less on metrics as women are substantially penalised on citations and impact metrics. Professor Hart said that workload modelling was an important tool to demonstrate where women are spending their time and ensure that they had time for research and weren’t carrying a disproportionate percentage of teaching and administrative work. The fact that the need for culture change extends beyond the workplace was also clear, with discussions on the fact that women often carry a significant ‘mental burden‘ related to domestic duties.

The event was encouraging in that these women have been able to achieve success despite the barriers that they identified and because it is clear that there is a body of women at senior levels within universities who are acting as role models and providing practical and moral support for the women who aspire to follow in their footsteps.

Further information

  • TRIGGER
  • Birkbeck Astrea – network for women in professional services roles
  • Athena SWAN at Birkbeck
  • WHEN – speeding up equality in the workplaceProfessor Sarah Hart was recently filmed speaking about her career path and why she chose a career in STEM
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Growing Your Ecosystem

This post was contributed by Miranda Weston-Smith, who on 10 March was a guest speaker at an event hosted by the Transforming Institutions by Gendering contents and Gaining Equality in Research (TRIGGER) team – a research project in Birkbeck’s Department of Management.

biobeat-brandingAt a joint Birkbeck School of Science and TRIGGER event, Miranda Weston-Smith discussed her experiences in founding BioBeat together with opportunities for scientists and business graduates in bio-sciences. Miranda helps early stage biomedical businesses attract investment and develop their business strategies.

Miranda has worked with many entrepreneurs and is experienced in fundraising, business planning and technology transfer. She is a long standing Mentor for Cambridge Judge Business School’s Entrepreneurship Centre, contributes to the University of Cambridge Masters in Bioscience Enterprise course and is a member of the St John’s Innovation Centre Training Team.

Miranda studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge and has a Diploma from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

 

She brings experience as a Technology Manager at Cambridge Enterprise, where she assessed and marketed life science technologies, negotiated licences and spun-out companies. She was responsible for technology transfer at the University of Cambridge for the Cambridge-MIT Institute. In her five years at the seed capital firm, Cambridge Research and Innovation, she invested in early stage technologies. Miranda co-founded Cambridge Network with Hermann Hauser.

 

As a result of working with researchers, Miranda founded and runs BioBeat, a programme to inspire the next wave of bio-entrepreneurs and business leaders. It is a way to engage with successful women entrepreneurs and she explained that in her experience women adopt different strategies to issues such as working in teams, risks, and raising finance. Doctor Helen Lee, Director of Research, Department of Haematology, University of Cambridge and Founder, Diagnostics for the Real World, and Dr Jane Osbourn, Vice President Research and Development, MedImmune and Head of Site MedImmune Cambridge were hugely important catalysts for BioBeat getting underway and for the first Bio Beat conference in 2013, with an all-female panel.

Introducing the Cambridge bio cluster

Miranda introduced the Cambridge bio cluster that involved a range of organisations involved in medicines, R&D Support, clinical diagnostics and consumer health. Many of the companies involved in these areas have connections with Cambridge University. Those involved in medicines may have direct intellectual property (IP) relationships with University. For others, the relationships may be more indirect through networking between individuals and groups.

Miranda discussed the differences between the Cambridge biocluster of 2010 and of 2015. Lines are much tighter and investment has significantly increased through a range of funders. For example, Axol Bioscience after setting out to obtain £600,000 through a crowdfunding campaign, managed to bring in £1 million.

On advice for entrepreneurs, Miranda stressed that it is Important to find out where strengths of a company lie. The company needs to find where it sits in the market – where its customers are – and then funding can speed-up. For example, one company set out to exploit exhalation technology through non-invasive equipment that was developed as a veterinary product for horses and other animals. However, having discovered that managing severe breathing attacks such as asthma costs the NHS over £1 billion per year, the company is now developing the technology for human patients. The approval procedure, finances and returns are completely different in these two sectors.

Another aspect stressed by Miranda is linking-up the product and the market with the financial details. Investors are really interested in the two aspects of market and finance as well as the product, so providing projections of three-year cash-flows can be very important. Investors will be seeking creativity in potential problem-solving from an early stage.

Q&A

Miranda then took questions in a lively session during which most delegates to the seminar participated by asking specific questions or joining in the discussion that ensued.

The first question related to the institutional anchors that underpin the bio-science cluster. Miranda said that Cambridge University provided local industry links and was there as a strong, constant presence. The corporates that are present are a mainstay that can provide sponsorship as well as international connections and perspectives. BioBeat is also a way of opening up fresh energies and a way of encouraging people to do more.

In answer to later questions about the university’s role, Miranda confirmed that the institution does not usually seek absolute control of enterprises, but tries to support incubate, and accelerate ideas. Cambridge University’s IP policy is that of retention of the first right to file patent applications; but copyright rests with the researchers. This means that there are many ways to exploit the ideas and not just go through the University. In addition, Cambridge Enterprises puts in seed money, but this is generally done in a low key way. Generally the University sees itself as an enabler and incubator.

A series of questions and some discussion followed about how to get involved in networking from a student business perspective, rather than as a scientific researcher. Miranda suggested that the first thing to do is to just try it after scoping-out what events are going on. Miranda candidly admitted that when she first started, she didn’t really understand what networking was all about and that you have to learn on the job. Porosity and being interested in what others are doing are important. Also, if you go out with one or two colleagues, it is important not just to stand together; just go up to people and start talking to them.

In the discussion it was mentioned that potential entrepreneurs could attend interesting networking events. Such events are regularly attended by service providers, head-hunters, institutions and sometimes investors. In London, One Nucleus holds regular events. Miranda confirmed the value of attending them.

Asked about how the Cambridge bio-cluster compared with others in Europe, Miranda suggested that one of ways is to look at companies that are moving into the area, such as   Ilumina. Microsoft has its European R&D office in Cambridge. Astra Zeneca (AZ) already has various laboratories around Cambridge, but eventually some 1600 – 2000 people will move in to their new building. The impact on the cluster will be for example, there will be opportunities for sub-contracting work and for early stage collaborative projects.

Finally, on the subject of how Miranda saw the cluster evolving, she said she expected Cambridge University to continue to spin-out biotech companies, and with spin-outs from other companies, the cluster will grow further. Spin-outs will also come from Barbaham Institute and Addenbrookes Hospital and from companies such Illumina.

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Gender Equality in Entrepreneurship Policy: Looking to the Future

This post was contributed by members of the Transforming Institutions by Gendering contents and Gaining Equality in Research (TRIGGER) team – a research project in Birkbeck’s Department of Management – following a workshop which they led at Dundalk Institute of Technology, Dundalk, Ireland on Thursday, October 22

Women at conference (pic credit: Ignite New Zealand under CC via Flickr.com)

Women at conference (pic credit: Ignite New Zealand under CC via Flickr.com)

The international panel at Dundalk Institute of Technology (DKIT), Ireland, was asked to reflect on the differences in the challenges that women entrepreneurs face compared to their male counterparts. Their responses would then shape their views as to whether the panel thought that different policies are needed to support them.

Professor Colette Henry, a member of the TRIGGER team and Head of Department of Business at DKIT introduced the panel. Professor Helen Lawton Smith – as the Birkbeck lead of the TRIGGER project – chaired the session, and began by asking the panellists to share their own perspectives and experiences of women’s enterprise policy. The panel brought together perspectives from both research and practice.

The panellists were:

  • Ms Sarita Johnston, Enterprise Ireland
  • Professor Barbara Orser, University of Ottawa, Canada
  • Professor Bill O’Gorman, Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland
  • Professor Lene Foss, UiT – The Arctic University of Norway
  • Ms Roseann Kelly, Women in Business Northern Ireland

Structural and contextual challenges

In response to the question of the different challenges faced by men and women entrepreneurs, Lene Foss suggested that women face both structural and contextual challenges. Roseann Kelly identified these as a difference in the kinds of networks they have as well as the existence of fewer role models. Lene Foss further highlighted the dual role that women play as both mothers and entrepreneurs, as well as national differences in women’s propensity to become entrepreneurs. In Norway for example, immigrant women are more likely to be entrepreneurs than Norwegian women.

On the question of whether support for improved networking opportunities for women was an appropriate policy response, Bill O’Gorman cited his recent experiences of women’s attitudes towards women-only networks. He gave an example from his own work where his team at Waterford had set up three networks in Ireland and Wales: male only, mixed and female only. Surprisingly, while women initially were reluctant to join women only-networks because they realised that gender diversity is important and a women-only network would segregate them from men, the women-only network appeared to perform best. While the other two networks folded, the women-only one continued and still exists.

Sarita Johnson, Manager of Female Entrepreneurship for Enterprise Ireland, cited research that has led to Enterprise Ireland to support women-only programmes including networks. This demonstrated that the challenges facing women entrepreneurs are different, specifically with regard to attitude towards risk-taking and raising finance. For example, Enterprise Ireland invests in 100 high potential start-ups (HPSUs) per year. The specific targeting of women has meant that the number of women entrepreneurs in this category being awarded grants has risen from 7% to 18%. She also found that women-only networks tend to perform best – for example, in raising export sales.

Need for better understanding of gender differences

Dundalk Institute of Technology (pic credit banlon1964 under CC via Flickr.com)

Dundalk Institute of Technology (pic credit banlon1964 under CC via Flickr.com)

Barbara Orser highlighted that it is not just social capital that contributes to women only-networks performing better – it is also technology adoption and financial capital. There needs to be better understanding of gender differences, for example, with regard to levels of confidence, in order to develop better policy. Three aspects were identified as important: women’s social circles; social capital in the form of information gathering networks, and fear of failure.

Roseann Kelly suggested that women are sometimes reluctant to benefit from women-only initiatives and prefer not to be labelled as ‘women entrepreneurs.’ This is a marketing issue – exemplar women are there by right and should celebrate their success. They should play by their own rules and not those set by men. Moreover, women should not have the equivalent of ‘old boys’ networks, because women are better at inclusivity than men.

When the Panel were asked how a hypothetical one million euros might be best spent to support women’s entrepreneurship, Sarita Johnston from Enterprise Ireland said that a programme which would give financial support to women entrepreneurs would offer the quickest and most tangible benefits. Blended support in the form of networking, accelerator programmes and role models is the best approach for supporting start-ups. Access to capital pulls through the development of other skills. Bill O’Gorman thought the money being spent on Ireland’s action plan for jobs is effective, and an emphasis on female entrepreneurship would yield benefits.

Roseann Kelly pointed out that Women in Business Northern Ireland has no public funding for enterprise support and has to be self-sustaining. Public funding would give a boost to their programmes. Barbara Orser suggested that public monies in Canada could be spent on encouraging more women to become entrepreneurs. A specific population that might benefit from funding is women university students; these are under-represented in Ireland’s women entrepreneurs.

Impacting on the entrepreneurial culture

The challenge for the TRIGGER team at Birkbeck is to build on the insights gained from academics’ and practitioners’ experiences to make an impact on the entrepreneurial culture within the college. This means encouraging more female students, as well as professional and academic staff, to share the lessons of the differences in challenges they face with other communities. This panel event shows that there is much to be gained by sharing perspectives from within different institutional and national contexts.

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