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Davos should send fact-finding mission to Nottingham to end women drought

Posted on 13 January 2011 | 9:01am

I’ve only been to Davos once, with the then PM TB, and can’t say I enjoyed it much. All a bit ‘look how important I am, I’m at Davos,’ and all a bit gigantic cocktail party full of people looking over shoulders to see if anyone more important is looming in the middle distance. Even the title of the event – World Economic Forum – is a bit grandiose, if well-meaning.

Being a trained observer, I did notice that though there were many very attractive and well-dressed women PAs around the scene, the movers and shakers themselves were predominantly male, and wearing ties like the one Barclays’ Bob Diamond wore to the Treasury select committee.

Now the World Economic Forum has decided to do something about it, telling the big companies sending ‘delegations’ that there must be a woman among every group of five top execs. Nothing wrong with that, say I. Might force some of these companies to take a good look at themselves.

And for inspiration they, and the WEF organisers, could take a trip to Nottingham, where last night I was speaking at a dinner to raise money for Mental Health Research UK to fund a new PhD study at the university’s Institute of Mental Health.

Nottinghamshire’s great and good were out in force, including the chief constable, the city council’s chief executive, the head of the probation service, the governor of a sex offenders’ prison, the sheriff (yes the sheriff of Nottingham, surely the most famous sheriff title in the world), the high sheriff, the university’s pro-vice chancellor, a former chief nursing officer, the head of children’s services … and every single one of them was a woman. Also there was the country’s first female black High Court judge.

In addition the whole evening was put together by a woman, aforementioned High Sheriff Amanda Farr, and Mental Health Research UK founded by a woman, Clair Chilvers. The only exception to this phenomenal female domination was the Lord Lieutenant … and I warned him that on current trends he would end up being replaced by the first Lady Lieutenant.

Joking aside, it really was striking. Perhaps the WEF should send a fact-finding mission to the city to work out how they do it. The cocktails won’t be as fancy; there is no ski-ing; and  very little self-importance. But there certainly were a lot of impressive women in high places.

  • Olli Issakainen

    When you wrote that you were about to go to Nottingham, I remembered that there are a lot more women in there than men. But is this true?
    It appears that the male to female ratio in Nottingham is now about 1:1, not 1:3 or 1:6. Latest figures I have seen point out that there are 134,458 women in there and 132,530 men.
    The myth of Nottingham being a city of women probably has its origins in the fact that Nottingham used to have a big lace industry.

  • Viviane King

    I live in Sydney. I have a female mayor, state member, federal member, state premier, prime minister, governor and governo-general. Thank goodness my 13 year old daughter is growing up in an environment where she thinks this is normal.

  • eddie

    Twenty years ago Nottingham always had the reputation of having the best looking women in the country. Not sure if that is till the case, and it is probably a sexist comment by todays’ standards in any event.

  • Sarah Dodds

    And at the other end of the scale, some blokes in early years teaching would be nice. Why do we assume that men cannot or should not educate AND nurture? There are many boys in schools who are screaming out for strong male role models early in life. Shame that in schools they tend to have to wait until year 5/6 to get them. Too little, too late.

  • Nicky

    Good for them. I expect the current Sheriff of Nottingham is a lot nicer than her distant predecessor. He’d probably recognise kindred spirits in Cameron, Osborne and Clegg – being the Robin Hoods in reverse that they are.

  • Ehtch

    I remember reading that in a magazine during the 1980’s, that there were nine men for every ten women in Nottingham, or something, and they were quite sure of the figures then.

    But when you factor in that the surroundings areas during the lace industry heydays, that males worked in the surrounding coal industry, where it was not unusual for two deaths per month per mine due to accidents, and the reduced life expectancy from said work, that it could have been a much larger ratio at one time.

  • Nicky

    Bit off-topic, but Cameron was absolutely appalling at PMQs yesterday. He might be shafting the country, but he seems to think PMQs is some hilarious student debating society. And as well as being sneery and patronising, he was plain wrong, according to the FT no less:

    In essence Cameron argued that the new bank levy would this year raise £2.5bn – more than the £2.3bn raised by Labour’s bank bonus tax last year. “£2.5bn is more than £2.3bn,” he told the chamber.

    By contrast Ed Miliband argued that last year’s one-off tax raised £3.5bn while the banking levy will only raise £1.3bn. It is Miliband who is telling the truth.

    The Treasury only reached its £2.3bn figure for last year by lopping off £1.2bn from the real £3.5bn figure – citing the income tax and NI which the exchequer may have lost due to banks paying lower bonuses than they might have done. (A highly speculative behavioural assumption). Meanwhile while the bank levy will reach £2.5bn in 2012 it is only forecast to raise £1.3bn this year.

    I don’t think Ed should inadvertently encourage Cameron by smiling sportingly when he made that unpleasant jibe about his brother’s TV aspirations. Surely it would be better to maintain a stony expression to take the wind out of the sails of the overgrown public schoolboys opposite?

  • Robert

    Hope you made it to Nottingham Contemporary. If not this time maybe next?

    Fitting tribute to the laceworking ladies mentioned already.

    Also a good reminder of what decent funding of the arts under a Labour government means.

  • William

    Labour deserves credit (going back a few years) for actively encouraging more women to enter parliament. However, like much of what Labour’s achieved over the years, it’s now taken for granted that there’s a more equal mix of men and women in the HoC.

    Like Nicky says, Cameron was dreadful at PMQs yesterday. I found his remarks about Alan Johnson particularly unpleasant – and they revealed a quite poisonous snobbery. It’s the measure of the man (Cameron that is) that he doesn’t recognise how highly intelligent and motivated AJ would have to be, to come from such a deprived background and achieve the success he has.

    Speaking of women in parliament, personally I’d like to see AJ’s colleague Angela Eagle sitting beside him on the bench more often. It’s not just that she’s evidently a very bright woman. It’s also because I remember, during the October Spending Review coverage of parliament, the look of unrelenting, withering scorn on her face for Osborne and co. Never was withering scorn more richly deserved.

  • Richard

    Nottingham has managed to appoint all these women to said posts without positive discrimination or women only lists. Please let such successs be allowed to be repeated organically, and the right women will surface in top jobs. Do not encourage women only lists, please.

  • Gilliebc

    Just to say how impressed I’ve been in the last few days with the performance of Australian PM Julia Gillard. Her calm measured but still quietly authoritative performance in the light of the devastating flooding in Queensland struck just the right note imo. Likewise the Govenor of Queensland, Anna Bligh, also impressive and very articulate.

  • Ehtch

    Born in Barry in Wales was Julia – the only modern day (non-Royal) leader of a state ever to be born in Wales. Good trivia for you.

    David Lloyd-George was born in Manchester, by the way, and Neil Kinnock failed at the last hurdle, better known as Sheffield, but less about that the better.

  • Ehtch

    And by the way, the only “modern” day Royal leader that was born in Wales, I believe, was good ol’ King Henry the Seventh, born in Pembroke Castle, West Wales, and started the fantastic Tudor dynasty – Battle of Bosworth and all that. His grand-daughter Lizzy the First, better known as Queenie to some, was something, wasn’t she. And Henry Eight, his son, was quite interesting too, you could say. Lizzy and Harry, as Henry Eight was affectionately known to the masses, were interesting gingers, or “rodents”, as Harriet Harman seems to call them…

  • Dianne Allen

    Interesting that you should pick up on the number of female movers and shakers in our fair city. You might like to know that we have just launched an initiative in Nottingham – 100 Women of Substance -to recognise women in Nottingham who have been an inspiration to others in the city. Its part of a number of activities being organised in Nottingham to mark the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day Nottingham’s. We are looking forward to seeing the entries.
    Dianne Allen, Gemini PR & Marketing

  • Ehtch

    I think I need to visit Nottingham again, don’t know why. mmmm…

    And no, smallminds, nothing about possible strong wimmin, honest, looking at DH Lawrence’s mam in Sons and Lovers, maybe …..

  • Vez

    How utterly refreshing. Wish I had been there.

  • Loved to read about this in Guardian on Saturday. Shame that it’s still something worth commenting on. What are your views on quotas on boards? Reluctantly I am beginning to think they are only thing that will really change anything and am surprised by antipathy shown buy women in business.
    I wrote more here, if you’re interested – If Women Ruled the World!
    Kind regards,