We have made no secret of our wish for the Bristol Women in Business Charter to be an effective long-term lever to support the move to greater gender equality within businesses in the City and the surrounding area. Given the current circumstances, we decided to launch very quietly as a Community Interest Company (CIC) on 1st April. The CIC has been formed to take over the running of the Bristol Women in Business Charter from the Women in Business Task Group (part of the Bristol Women’s Commission), and we are the team that is running the CIC! We wanted to take this moment to answer some questions on our new transition to understand our aims and what it means for our signatories through a Q&A with the CIC Directors, Jane and Sandra.
What is a Community Interest Company?
It’s a company whose sole purpose is to do something that’s of benefit to the community, usually a clearly defined community. When applying to become a Community Interest Company, one is required to make a community interest statement and explain how the activities of the company will help that community.
Why is the Charter becoming a CIC?
The Charter was launched by the Women in Business Task Group, a group of volunteers and part of the Bristol Women’s Commission. The goals of the Charter are ambitious, and we know that they’re not going to be achieved in a couple of years, so we wanted to create a team and governance structure that would support the Charter’s work in the long term. The CIC structure does that.
What is our aim? And how has the transition into a CIC going to support that?
Our belief is that businesses cannot reach their full potential if they fail to recruit and retain a gender-balanced workforce. The Bristol Women in Business Chatter aims to recognise and support businesses in Bristol and the surrounding areas that are progressing towards the aim. This will help accelerate the pace of change to the benefit for women, the businesses they work in and the communities they live in. The CIC holds us to account on delivering that and makes it more achievable.
What does it mean for our signatories and how will this benefit them?
We’ve already had almost 40 companies, employing over 20,000 people, sign up to the Charter in the year since its launch. We bring those companies together to share their experience and knowledge and learn from each other. We can continue and grow this work as a result of formalising our structure and support more companies to sign the Charter and commit to making progress on gender equality. We are very keen to welcome SMEs and those companies who haven’t made (or any) much progress on gender equality to date. They will get lots of value from hearing how other businesses are handling this and the results they’re getting. We’ll be charging companies a small annual fee to support the work of the CIC going forward, with any profit that’s made once costs are covered being reinvested in the aims of the company.
Lastly, why are you involved?
Sandra: “In order to make meaningful change around what is required to make gender equality in this city a reality, you have to be part of the force implementing the changes needed. Involvement in the Bristol Women in Business Charter gives me an opportunity to collectively lead the way towards that goal.”
Jane: “It gives me the opportunity to actually do something about gender inequality in business, rather than just talking about it.”
If you have questions about our transition into a Community Interest Company, please do not hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Women have been impacted differently to men by the measures put in place to manage Covid-19. The two sectors hardest hit have been hospitality and retail, which both employ significant numbers of female workers. What’s more, only 1 in 10 of low earners have been able to work from home, and we know that 69% of low earners are women. The Institute for Fiscal Studies and the UCL Institute of Education found in May that mothers were 47% more likely to have permanently lost their job or quit. Additionally women working from home are more likely to have done the majority of the childcare and household chores than their home-working male partners.
Diane Bunyan - Diane convenes the Bristol Women's Commission Economy Task Group. She is a trustee of Bristol Women's Voice and Watershed Arts Trust. Diane works, nationally and internationally as a consultant on human rights and gender equality and was the first-ever women leader of Bristol City Council.
Annabel Smith - Annabel is a leading player in the coordination of the One City approach that Bristol is taking and has been pivotal in bringing people and organisations together from across the city to make that happen in her role at the City Council. She is an expert in the gendered impacts of economic policy.
Sandra Gordon - A businesswoman, a magistrate, and a member of the Women in Business Task Group that launched the Bristol Women in Business Charter in 2019 (and now a Director of the CIC that runs it), Sandra is a member of the Mayoral Commission on Race Equality.
The panellists, shared their perspectives and their expertise with the online audience, focusing on what Bristol businesses are doing and can do to make the recovery from the crisis more inclusive and to begin to rebuild a fairer economy. Sandra Gordon told those listening that cultural change within businesses was key and that “leadership on equality in organisations is everyone’s responsibility, not just the CEO’s”. Annabel Smith was positive about Bristol’s ability to deal with and recover from the crisis: “We’re a city that’s not afraid to disrupt the status quo. The One City Approach has given us a framework for collaboration and the governance methods to support the recovery that other cities are now scrambling to put together”. Diane Bunyan too was hopeful, “Things do change” she said “We’ve got the skills, we’ve got the knowledge, and we know what needs to be done. We need to translate that into action now.”
On the 7th March 2020, we joined Bristol's City Hall in a celebration with thousands of women from across our city with Bristol Women's Voice. The day features more than 50 free events. From workshops on happiness, health, work and climate change, to self-defence classes, panel discussions and art installations brought by many inspiring organisations (including us).
Panel discussion: How to navigate the opportunities