Why thought leadership needs gender balance

Desislava Kozareva

Businesses are gradually realising that, alongside climate change and the future of work, gender balance needs to be a core topic of their thought leadership campaigns. They now know that it costs more to stay silent.

Here, two members of our editorial team tell us what has changed for women, and how we at FT Longitude are trying to do our bit for gender equality.


The pandemic has negatively affected women at work

Deloitte’s Women @ Work campaign lifted the lid on gender equality in the workplace. Not only did it prove that the pandemic had a significant negative impact on women and their position at work, but it also highlighted the fragility of existing gender equality frameworks in even the most progressive of companies.

The survey asked 5,000 women about how the pandemic has affected their career progress, work-life balance and mental wellbeing. Crucially, it also asked them what steps their employers had taken to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on their careers and personal lives.

The results were striking. The data shows that 51% of women feel less optimistic about their career prospects today than they did before the pandemic. And while 68% of women say that their mental wellbeing was good or very good before Covid-19, just 33% say that this is the case today.

Workplace discrimination persists

The research also shows that discrimination persists even in a remote working environment: 52% of the women say that they had experienced some form of harassment or microaggression in the past year.

Women in minority groups are more likely to report lower levels of wellbeing and job satisfaction, and higher levels microaggressions, which highlights the importance of taking an intersectional approach to gender equality.

Hannah Freegard, managing editor

Some businesses are doing better

Gender equality seems to be going backwards. So what are employers doing to counter this worrying trend?

The data suggests they are not going far enough. Only a minority of the women in the research say that their employer has implemented flexible working initiatives for all, formal mentorship programmes for women, childcare support, and resources to support emotional and physical wellbeing.

It’s no wonder that a staggering 57% of the women say they plan to leave their current job within two years.

But the findings also reveal a cause for optimism. Within the sample, Deloitte identified a group of organisations, the Gender Equality Leaders, that have gone much further than other businesses to support women.

Gender balance benefits the organisation

The data indicates that their culture of equality and inclusion is having a positive impact on women in the workplace. Women who work for these Gender Equality Leaders report much higher levels of job satisfaction, productivity and mental wellbeing than women who work for employers with a less-inclusive, lower-trust culture. They are also more likely to plan to stay with their employer long term, which suggests that these companies have lower rates of attrition, as well as a more productive workforce.

This groundbreaking piece of research shows that taking concrete action to improve gender equality can have a transformative impact on the workforce, while driving better business results. It also highlights the need for organisations to act now to prevent the imbalance deepening further.

Hannah Freegard, managing editor

Listen and learn more about Deloitte’s Women @ Work campaign in our video case study.

What is FT Longitude doing to support gender balance?

The importance of thought leadership like Women @ Work on tackling gender equality is clear. Highlighting these inequalities on a global scale allows your company to push the conversation with clients and your own workforce, creating a platform to make real change.

To contribute to these efforts and hold ourselves accountable, FT Longitude has joined The Equality Project. This is a BBC initiative that aims to increase representation of women in journalism and media. We can’t resolve many of the gender equality challenges identified in Deloitte’s research, but we can do our bit to elevate women’s voices in thought leadership.

Interviews with experts and academics are a critical part of robust thought leadership. They provide specialist perspectives that can shape the narrative of our clients’ content campaigns. Increasingly, we are also producing audio interviews where a lack of diversity can really stand out.

Every month, we take part in a simple system of self-monitoring, where editors at FT Longitude track the gender balance of interviewed contributors to our content.

We are featuring more women

In March and April, we recorded a 75:25 split in favour of men. In June, however, our monthly ratio was 42:58.

This is great progress. But we don’t hit our target every month, and we still have a lot of work to do. Finding the right voices can be particularly challenging in some industries where there are few women in C-suite positions. And this is even harder in bigger companies: there are only 41 female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies, for instance.

But by monthly tracking, we can analyse across industry and seniority, identify key areas where we are lagging behind and recommend ways to improve.

We want to achieve equal representation of men and women. By including more women’s perspectives in thought leadership, we hope to better balance our content, create thought leadership that resonates with women readers, and help to empower their voices across business.

Desi Kozareva, writer and editor

 Get inspired for your next campaign. Click here to see some of the influential women we’ve interviewed recently for our clients’ content campaigns.

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About the author: Desislava Kozareva

As writer and editor, Desi works on a variety of thought leadership studies across our editorial team, collaborating closely with clients and writing compelling stories that help their brands meet their objectives. Most recently, she’s worked on NTT Data’s study From Data Islands to Data Insights and has assisted Barclaycard’s monthly consumer confidence study since she joined FT Longitude.

Prior to FT Longitude, Desi completed an MSc in International Marketing and a BA in English Language and Literature at King’s College London.

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