Networking, but not as you know it…

By Melanie Richards, Partner and Vice Chairman, KPMG UK

More than 200 of London’s most successful and aspirational businesswomen gathered in London’s Canary Wharf on Thursday 19 June 2014 for the launch of the global phenomenon Lean In.

Developed by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, it aims to encourage more women into senior management and onto company boards.

Organised by and hosted by KPMG, women from across the tech, finance, media, energy, research and education sectors and many entrepreneurs assembled to kick off the London community. Lean In circles are small peer groups who meet regularly to learn and share experience in a trusting, supportive environment. They aim to encourage more women to apply for top jobs.

Panellist and chair for the event, Amanda Mesler, commented: “After working in London for many years, I understand the issues from an organisational and personal perspective. Throughout my career, I met so many talented women who, with support and encouragement to Lean In, could realise their potential.”

She said that, having experienced being the first and only woman on the Executive Committee of a large technology company, she recognised the potential that Lean In provides as a framework and an effective model to help other women reach leadership positions. In talking openly about the challenges women face and working together, she made it clear that she believed it is possible to change the route for many women and create a better world for everyone. This is something that I firmly believe, too – and was delighted to be part of something that is helping bring the belief towards reality.

The fact is that we have long since passed the stage of needing to justify why firms should boost diversity in their ranks. In today’s business environment what matters more than words is the action being taken to create a diverse workforce at all levels and an equally clear career path for women, as well as men.

It’s too easy to suggest that women need to change their approach, when the reality suggests that business should take responsibility for fixing the system. That’s why, at KPMG, we have supported women-only development programmes for some time and why we welcome the launch of Lean In in London. Put simply, any opportunity for women to learn from each other is a good thing and the opportunity to lean-in should be seized upon – both by the women and employers – and men – who can benefit from shared experiences.

In Lean In Sheryl Sandberg shares her personal stories, uses research to shine a light on gender differences, and offers practical advice to help women achieve their goals. It’s a book worth reading and the events are worth attending.

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