Jessica Webb is CiC Women’s Lead and Member of the Women in Public Affairs Executive Committee
The pandemic has been devastating and had huge implications for everyone’s lives. We have lacked opportunities to build the vital relationships we rely on to do our jobs and missed our friends. I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to get back to receptions in Parliament and start networking again.
- Networking from the get-go (Finley Morris, June 14, 2020)
- Networking – the key to success (Lionel Zetter, May 14, 2020)
Imagine the scene. You finally walk back into Terrace Pavilion. You stroll over to the bar. You collect that first glass of warm white wine and look out over the Thames and you think for a minute the last time you were at that same spot. It’s been too long. However, my hope is that the room won’t look the same as we left it …
I remember my very first reception in Westminster. I looked around and realised that I was the only woman there. I had always heard that Westminster was an ‘old boy’s network’ although I had never really experienced it first-hand.
Much has changed since that time. A year spent in a pandemic has marked the rise of the impersonal conference call, at a point when many young professionals starting their careers should be doing just the opposite: getting out, meeting people, building their networks. I wonder how these spaces will look when we step out again onto that green or red carpet when we return after the recess.
Based on that experience, I have been determined to get more women into politics, public affairs and communications. To change the room. Of course, not every reception, roundtable or launch event looks like my first. Things are changing. We are making progress. But we all need it to continue.
I feel passionately that we need to lead from the front on the kind of society we want to see. We have influence in our line of work, and there should be space in every room for all experiences and voices, no matter what you look like or where you were born.
That is why I have taken up the role of Women’s Lead and Director of Conservatives in Communications (CiC) and Executive Committee Member of Women in Public Affairs. Both these groups are independent, voluntary and informal informal industry networks created to share experiences, offer advice and support. While they have a role to play and take their responsibilities seriously (the CiC committee is 50/50), there are others who must take the lead in this.
For example, while it’s great that just over half all MPs elected in 2019 were Conservative (365 of 650), it’s also disappointing that – just like our base – only one quarter of them are women (87 of 365). The Party must do more to improve this, and outfits such as the Conservative Women’s Organisation and Women2Win continue to play a key role in advocating for more women to get involved in politics and encouraging women to stand for UK Parliament.
Furthermore, women are under-represented as senior leaders within the worlds of PR and PA. We must ask ourselves why this is? Could it be that when women hit the top it’s not enough to keep them there? Maybe they decide that they don’t want it as much as they thought they did or that the balance of making sure they are home a few nights a week to see their children worth the sacrifice for something else? Perhaps the pandemic will change all of that, with more flexible working and an improvement in the understanding between clients and advisors. It used to be an absolute no-no to take a call while multi-tasking alongside childcare. These days it’s the norm!
To show our continued efforts to encourage more people to join CiC, we have created a deliverable 12-point plan. See below.
My commitment is real, as is the commitment of many others in our industry. To those who have supported women to date, we are very appreciative because we cannot do this on our own.
Some of our best cheerleaders throughout our careers have been male leaders – please don’t change. We are grateful for all that you are doing to champion our cause.
I can’t wait to see everyone at an event soon. See you at party conference if not before!
CiC 12-point plan:
- We will advertise all volunteer positions
- We will work with our partners on events and content to make them more female friendly
- We will host both breakfast and lunch events to allow working mums and carers to juggle their day
- We will vary up both speakers and topics to further their appeal
- We will use name tags at events going forward to aid those breaking into our sector as well as those more generally
- We will ensure our events are both welcoming and inclusive
- We will invite and listen to high profile women who can provide inspiration to our members
- We will strive for at least one female speaker per industry event
- We will encourage women to submit content to our newsletter
- We will continue to invest time and resources into our mentoring scheme
- We will do more to promote our network and supporters
- We will encourage our supporters to encourage other females to sign-up