'Mums who can't attend boozy networking lunches don't get ahead', says CBI Director General, Carolyn Fairbairn

'Mums who can't attend boozy networking lunches don't get ahead', says CBI Director General, Carolyn Fairbairn

The Director General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has called for an end to the late-night boozy culture surrounding stereotypical networking events.

Carolyn Fairbairn has claimed that these events ostracise female executives who have children, as they are less likely to stay and 'bond', instead preferring to go home and see their families. Talking to The Daily Mail, Fairbairn explains that this system makes many professional women uneasy.

She said: “I have noticed in my career that quite a lot of things that are set up around business life, that happen outside work, don’t include women that easily. One example that is quite obvious is the business dinner.

“A lot of women – and I was one of them, because I was bringing up three kids – just want to go home. And we wonder why business dinners are 95% men.

“I went to the Rugby World Cup final and I looked around and I could see the men thinking: 'How did she get in here?'

“A lot of the friendship building, the networks, the support that, frankly, becomes really important when you start getting to the top, are being formed in ways that exclude women.

“Here at the CBI I have said: 'Let’s have a look at other ways of doing things – can we have early evening events where we have a nice glass of wine and a nice presentation and then we all go home?' A lot of men would just like to go home as well.”

She went on to note the difficulties of balancing a family life with a successful career, explaining that she had to be “absolutely ruthless” about switching off from the office when she was at home.

Fairburn, a former Director at Lloyds Bank and Capita, went on to say although she is extremely proud of her achievements, the fact that it took CBI this long, 50 years, to recruit a women at the highest rung of the company is “a reflection of British business.”

Following Fairbairn’s remarks Enei Chief Executive Denise Keating commented: “The business dinner is a great example of corporate vanity creating barriers to inclusive workplaces. Corporate functions are almost always outside of the normal working day, and simply aren’t practical for parents to attend, whether male or female.

"However, due to the majority of the childcare burden falling on mothers, these events are particularly damaging to women, who face greater difficulties balancing work and home life, and correspondingly are at greater risk of being overlooked for promotion due to not being part of the work in-group.

“Employers currently have a huge deficit of women in senior management positions, and all too often the barriers to progression for women are factors which do not directly relate to their actual performance, whether this is part-time working, childcare commitments or not being part of the workplace social life.”

In other news, a recent report published in the Strategic Management Journal, suggested that female employees may find it harder to reach more senior levels if there are already women above them. 

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Comments (12)

  • James
    Wed, 25 Nov 2015 9:13am GMT
    This is disgusting and represents all that is wrong with society and business today, way too PC. Trying to ban activities that the majority like because minorities think they can't partake in them. The majority rules in a democracy as far as I am aware, yes we should make some allowances and perhaps create alternatives but not to the detriment of the majority which happens throughout our country.

    We have someone here claiming to be able to tell what people are thinking by looking at them (ref her quote about the world cup) to support her belief that she is hard done by. It would appear that she is the one with the problem.
    It is equally as hard for men and women to spend time away from children. I have a child of my own, the care is split.
  • Greg Turner
    Greg Turner@ Natasha
    Tue, 24 Nov 2015 1:14pm GMT
    Again, your gender is immaterial to that equation. It discriminates against anyone who doesn't feel safe travelling home late at night. Indeed, men are far more likely to be the victims of violence than women are so in some ways you could argue that it discriminates more against men than women.
  • Phil
    Tue, 24 Nov 2015 12:28am GMT
    @Clare, I'm not blaming the women. I'm saying that if they feel it's important for their career to attend these events (and they have a partner) they should persuade that partner to do the childcare. That's exactly what happens in my marriage - in both directions - and I'd say it's what should happen in any 'dual parent family'.
  • Natasha
    Mon, 23 Nov 2015 5:44pm GMT
    I 100% agree. Also, most of us do not live close to where we work once we have a family so we have to facto- in commuting time. I had to leave my job because I couldn't hang around in the evenings and feel safe to travel home alone on public transport late at night. This is something that also discriminates against women. Let's make networking events start no later than 6pm.
  • Rachael
    Mon, 23 Nov 2015 5:10pm GMT
    It's extremely old-fashioned to have after-work boozy networking and dicriminates against anyone who actually has a life!

    Doesn't do much for the healthy living and well-being agenda either...

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