Chief Executive’s Blog

Nullius in verba – ‘On the word of no one’ or ‘take nobody’s word for it’ is the motto of the Royal Society. This is not exactly a fashionable view at present, but the future of our economy depends upon us all continuing to respect sound evidence and expertise and to make the right decisions accordingly.

So it was great to welcome the Royal Society to Manchester and the North West for the first time last month. Their conference – ‘Creating Connections’ addressed some of the scientific and technical challenges facing the region and brought together leading experts from academia, industry, government and charities.

Discussion focussed upon how we drive innovation and economic growth – in particular how encouraging SME’s to innovate and invest in science can make a difference to productivity. This is a crucial agenda and it was fantastic to welcome such a diverse group of specialists from right across the North West.

Productivity is driven by a complex mix of factors – the right skills, the quality of leadership and management, innovation, and of course having an efficient transport infrastructure are all important. Greater collaboration across sectors and in particular between the private and public sector leaders will help us to tackle these challenges effectively. The lively discussions that took place at the conference demonstrated how much more we can do together.

It was also for me a reminder of how important it is to hear from, and respect diverse views and opinions, and how much better debate is when we do just that. Valuing and encouraging those who are different to ourselves, is not just the decent thing to do – it makes a tangible difference to economic performance.

So in the spirit of ‘nullius in verba’, here are some facts, produced by experts, for you to consider.

An independent review led by Sir Philip Hampton and the late Dame Helen Alexander was published last month. It examined ways to ensure that talented women at the top of business are recognised, promoted and rewarded. In a month when headlines were dominated by rather different gender issues in Westminster you may have missed publication of the report, however a number of findings are worthy of note by any business looking to improve their bottom line.

The review reported that a company with 30 per cent female leadership could expect to add up to six percentage points to its net margin when compared with a similar business with no female leaders. The potential impact on the UK economy of encouraging talented women is staggering. I quote:

‘Bridging the UK gender gap in work has the potential to create an extra £150 billion on top of business-as-usual GDP forecasts in 2005, and could translate into 840,000 additional female employees. In this scenario, the United Kingdom has the potential to gain 5-8 percent in GDP.’

There is some great work going on here in the region to make a difference. Simone Roche, founder of Northern Power Women, deserves a particular mention for her tireless efforts to recognise and nurture women leaders of the future. The potential productivity boost will be shared by all of us.

Every discussion, whatever the topic, I am involved in at the moment in the end turns to skills. The challenge of how to deliver the workforce we need for the future has been sharpened by both BREXIT considerations and the opportunities and threats posed by the 4th industrial revolution. At a time of skills shortages it is just plain daft not to ensure we support and encourage everyone to be the best that they can.

This is not just a gender issue. The evidence is overwhelming that tackling barriers to individuals, and encouraging a more diverse workforce, has the potential to drive growth. For example, utilising BME talent could deliver a £24 billion boost to the economy – around 1.3% of UK GDP.

Difference is not always visible. If we do not as business leaders ensure cultures of respect and tolerance for everyone, it follows that business efficiency will be compromised. A recent report from Out Now demonstrated that there is a greater than 25% productivity gain achieved when LGBT workers feel able to be open with all their work colleagues. A business employing 100,000 staff, can expect to save around £ 3 million through not losing closeted staff who plan to leave because they feel unable to be themselves at work.

The facts then are clear – respect, tolerance and the nurturing of everyone’s talent are not politically correct buzzwords. They are as important to our future economy as delivering an effective transport system. With the added advantage that it is in all our power to make a difference to this part of the productivity puzzle in 2018.

Read the article in the GMBW_Opinion