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Creating Positive Footprints....

Pink Shoe Summer Luncheon

At the House of Lords on Quatorze Juillet Pink Shoe Club held its special summer networking luncheon in the lovely rooms overlooking the beautiful gardens of Westminster Abbey.

The sun was shining, bunting festooned the room and the French and English flags were flying!
Hosted by Helene Martin Gee along with Pink Shoe Patron Tessa Sanderson CBE, members and guests networked with other senior women and some gentlemen too.

Each of us wore something pink, which really lifted the spirits of the group – and who could be anything but happy drinking Pimms or pink fizz with fascinating friends in a beautiful venue? 

This unique occasion was the opportunity to celebrate our new links with European Women in Leadership (WIL) based in Paris, with whom we will be holding some exciting joint events and connecting on vital issues relevant to women in Europe. More on this soon!

It was also a lovely way to meet potential business contacts and renew links with old friends and colleagues, as well as entertain clients in a very sociable and elegant atmosphere.

The buffet was simply stunning, naturally our colour theme matched the occasion and the red, white and blue looked very jolly. With a good flavour of France from the cheese board, fruits de mer and pâté to salads including remolulade and salade nicoise.

We then enjoyed a bilateral dessert celebration with chocolate éclairs and English strawberries.

It was another memorable day, and afterwards as we made our way back to work a few lucky people had a special private tour of the Palace of Westminster.

Luckily we were forgiven by our French guests for flying Le Tricolore back to front!

 The way to remember is BBR (bleu, blanc, rouge) so now we’re sure to get it right.

W2W Professional Women's Network Inaugural Event

The Women 2 Win Professional Women’s Network held their inaugural event in association with the Brooklyn Brothers and members of Pink Shoe Club, by kind permission of Baroness Jenkin, in the auspicious surroundings of the House of Lords.
Sixty highly successful women from a range of professions gathered to discuss the future of the workplace, ready to answer the question: In order for business to thrive, do we need to be adopting a new approach to the way we work and should happiness be as important a measure as performance?
The debate was kicked off by enlightening and informative contributions from our three guest speakers, Chris Grayling MP, Minister for Employment (who must have felt incredibly out-numbered being one of only three men in the room!); Aileen Simkins, Director of Operations for the Office of National Statistics (ONS) with a responsibility for developing a system of measuring national well-being known as the Happiness Index, and Jessica Pryce-Jones; founder and CEO of iOpener who specialise in advising companies on the importance of employee happiness.

Chris Grayling suggested the debate needed to focus not just on those in work but those out of work too. For those in society who have suffered periods of long-term unemployment, the workplace is, itself, a symbol of happiness. Because work is essentially ‘good for people’ and this highlighted the importance of his ministerial responsibility to get more people into employment. 
He assured the audience that government is committed to encouraging flexibility in the workplace which he made clear he felt was a particularly significant issue for women with children. Employers needed to understand its employees’ needs and actively help them find the right balance between work and other commitments. He said a modern workplace that better reflected the reality of people’s lives was a happier place and also a more motivated and productive place as a result.
David Cameron believes GDP shouldn’t be the only way we measure how well the country is doing. But while productivity can be measured, can happiness?

Aileen Simpkins and the ONS have been working out how to do just that. Since launching their well-being programme, they've asked around 200,000 people to rate their life satisfaction on a scale of zero to 10 and asked other questions about levels of happiness, anxiety, and how worthwhile people feel the things they do in life are. The first annual results will be available in July 2012.
These should show how feelings of happiness and anxiety differ between areas and groups such as the young and old, the employed and the unemployed. Aileen claimed their results show job satisfaction is one of three main factors (up there with health and relationships) that affect peoples’ well-being the most: work affects your soul, not just your bank balance!
So if job satisfaction is so important to us, perhaps it needs to be given more serious focus. It affects our well-being, and also, as alluded to by Chris Grayling, dramatically impacts the productivity of our businesses.

It was this fact Jessica Pryce-Jones focused on. She is in the business of happiness in the workplace.  The iOpener Institute have developed a methodology to measure the happiness of employees and its effects.  They then help companies to introduce their “Science of Happiness at Work”. 
Whilst I must confess to have always been a little cynical as to how intangibles like happiness can be quantitatively measured, I, as I believe was everyone else in the room, hugely impressed by how Jessica explained this was done and how forcibly she argued the importance of this work.
It was revelatory to hear that whilst the happiest employees spent 80% of their time on task, those unhappiest at work spent only 40% of their time on task.  So unhappiness was, she claimed, an incredibly expensive unseen cost – worth £3 million per 1000 employees a year - increasingly more important, as Generation Y’ers explicitly prioritise happiness more than previous generations.
The theme of how happiness can be addressed by businesses continued as the debate was opened up to the floor. There was a sense of agreement that businesses should be about more than just increasing shareholder value.  Jessica felt, in light of the impact of happiness, firms have to start thinking not about the triple bottom line but the quadruple bottom line instead. Chris suggested this would come about naturally from the increased glare of transparency at all levels of government and business. Many felt organisations need to focus on different ways of showing how they value individual contributions other than through promotion.
Whilst how employers treat employees was clearly viewed as important, many felt the issue had to be addressed at a much earlier age. Some felt self-esteem should be addressed at schools. Chris agreed with this, suggesting work ethic and the fostering of achievement (in a wider range of ways) had to be looked into at an earlier age to help instil competitive drive.
Others argued that children need a clearer understanding of working environments and what work really entails, claiming not enough parents explain to their children what they do for a living or give them chance to visit their place of work.
Perhaps the most interesting issue raised was that of unrealistic expectations. Children are taught to broaden their horizons but the jobs they want often don’t exist: Its clearly impossible for all those with university degrees in Media Studies to get a good job in the media for example. Chris argued graduates shouldn’t expect to simply walk into a job in their chosen field and needed to approach their careers more strategically. More should be done to encourage realistic vocational goals at an earlier age. This disparity between job expectations and job satisfaction is not likely to disappear anytime soon: a disappointed workforce will lead to disappointing economic return.
This was a hugely successful first outing for the Women2 Win Professional Women’s Network with many thought-provoking issues raised. It was concluded that happiness should not be viewed as a rival to productivity as a means of measuring business success; rather as a factor that dramatically affects the productivity of business that in turn affects its long-term success. As Jessica pointed out, it may not always have been popular with alpha male boomers but clearly the ‘H’ word is back on the agenda.
With thanks to Max Berendt for his report on this event.