The theme for International Women’s Day this year is Balance for Better which of course makes perfect sense. It’s what we’re all striving for and although we’ve come a long way in the last 12 months, there’s still a huge amount to be achieved.
So, if this year is all about balance it got us thinking about where that left us at Stripe. You see, our workforce is 80% female and although we have a 50/50 Executive Board, our Management Board in Scotland is 100% female. Does this mean we’re in the wrong? Should we be beating ourselves up for not having more men in our business? Some would say yes, that we’re creating an environment which is positively discriminating in favour of women.
I disagree. Balance is important, but what’s much more important is creating a level playing field for every one of our team to fulfil their ambitions regardless of their gender. What’s more important than balance is equality.
We didn’t start out to create a female led business but when two thirds of people employed in our profession are female, Stripe isn’t unusual. However with only 30% of women making it to Board level, this is an area where I’m proud we lead the way. Whilst we’re far from perfect, we’ve learnt that the key to retaining senior women isn’t about HR policies, it’s about culture. Management teams need to create an environment where all staff are supported to have a flexible working day where they can be there for family when it matters and that their career won’t suffer as a result.
I also believe if you have female leadership in a business it sets the tone and positively impacts how women are recruited, promoted and retained. This is why it’s so critically important that women are equally represented at Board level, because without that cultural shift at the top nothing will ever change.
At Stripe our culture is everything. It’s not driven by gender but is dictated by the common values that we all share. Our values are universal, but emotional intelligence plays a large part in our decision making. We treat our people as human beings rather than employees – recognising that what goes on outside of work can hugely impact their performance in the office.
Don’t get me wrong we combine this approach with a good dose of commerciality. Last year we had our most successful year and grew by 35%. That doesn’t come without a huge amount of hard work, personal sacrifices and not being afraid to make tough decisions when we need to.
Over the years we’ve kept our heads down and worked hard, rarely taking time to stop and recognise what we’ve achieved. But when we thought about this we realised we weren’t just doing a disservice to ourselves and our people, we were neglecting the fact that we have an important role to play on International Women’s Day.
And that role is to inspire. No one should have to work in an environment where they aren’t treated with respect or where there isn’t an equal playing field and people need to vote with the their feet if that’s happening to them. By telling our story we hope to inspire all future leaders to build businesses where the only thing that defines you is your talent and your values.
So, this year we are standing up and are proud to be who we are and of what we’ve achieved. We may not have perfect balance, but we will always strive for equality and surely that’s what’s important.