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Issue #15: The Young Ones

Youth is often defined as the period that is neither childhood nor adulthood but somewhere in between, "not a time of life, but a state of mind, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease" (wise words from the junior Mr Kennedy, Robert F.). 

Recent studies on gender balance have focussed on the 'adult' periods of life when the presence of women in an organisation starts to fall, eg. ages 28-40 in the Opportunity Now study. This is great for me as I am well within this age bracket, but what about the under-28s? Would the conclusions reached in the study also apply to them?

I don't remember being worried about 'the glass ceiling' when I started working (I was probably more worried about how I would hide my horrific orange highlights), but are today's under-28s more attune to the presence of female role models or the attractiveness of a C-suite lifestyle? Suit & Pie decided to find out by interviewing four 21 to 26 year olds. You can read their great responses below.

In the spirit of youth, we also check out Britain's youngest entrepreneur, Henry Patterson, the 10 year old founder of sweet brand Not Before Tea in our Man's (Boy's) Corner and the great Lauren Greenfield video that redefines what it means to act #likeagirl.

As always, we love a good #suitie follow, retweet, share or like. We are at over 1,500 reads per issue (!!) so do keep spreading the #suitielove. 

Happy reading!

x  foong
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Issue #16 of Suit & Pie is out on 31 July 2014. Subscribe here to receive it straight to your inbox and catch up on past issues in our archive. You can also read the Suit & Pie story here courtesy of
Views from the (under-28) frontline
We asked Lara Yared (21), Felix Golding (22), Samuel Odebiyi (22) and Salama Begum (26) the following 3 questions: 

1. Do you think there is a glass ceiling for women?
2. How important is it to you to have female role models?
3. How attractive do you find the senior lifestyle? 

Q1 because in the 28-40 bracket we believe there is a glass ceiling (which is eroding!), but graduates often do not perceive there to be on entry into an organisation. 

Q2 because sometimes a lack of female role models is not necessarily an issue. Although studies have shown that you are more likely to look up to a single person as a role model when you are younger, as you get older you tend to pick the best bits from various male and female leaders to create your own leadership style.

Q3 because the 28-40 study found that one reason for women leaving work was because they viewed the lifestyle of the senior members of their organisation as unappealing - but is this still the case when you are younger?
On the glass ceiling...
Felix: "This is a really tough question. I don't think there is a glass ceiling at my organisation in my experience as I have never encountered or even heard rumours of an occasion where anyone has had their gender counted against them. However, there is a distinct imbalance in the gender split when looking at higher grades so I may not be at a level where the effects become apparent. 

I do feel though that there is a strong culture of equality and I do think that diversity is genuinely valued so I think that attributing the gender imbalance to a glass ceiling effect may not paint the full picture."

Salama: "If we take the glass ceiling as being an invisible barrier preventing women from progressing beyond a particular point within the organisation, I am of the view that one does not exist. This is because we are well aware of the factors that limit the career progression of women, and the cliff-drop in the number of women beyond middle management may actually serve to represent the failure of organisations and society to deal with these limiting factors. 

Instead I would say that there is more likely a 'funnel' structure when it comes to the upper echelons of women in the corporate world. Failure to deal with the multitude of challenges many women (and men) face such as the need for truly stigma-free flexible working result in there only being room a the top or anywhere near it for very few at a time." 
On the senior lifestyle...
Lara: "Yes! I would love to become part of the firm’s leadership. I like having a busy lifestyle and being constantly on the move. It’s a big responsibility but I think it is a very rewarding experience. I’m not close to the details of their lifestyles, so I’m not entirely sure if it hinders the ability to spend quality time with their family and friends, but from hearing the firm’s leadership speak on various occasions, flexibility is key and having a work/life balance is manageable and doable."

Felix: "The senior lifestyle is not appealing to me personally. The pressure and especially work hours do not appeal to me. I think 
I would enjoy the responsibility and the type of work itself but these would not counteract the negative aspects enough to make it worthwhile. Having said that, I am still at a very early stage in my career, so my perception of what exactly those kind of roles entail may not be accurate. I suspect my opinion of this will change as time goes by."

Salama:"It is 2014 and yet the profiles and lifestyles of leaders of many organisations remains firmly middle-aged, middle-class white male. As the daughter of Bangladeshi Muslim migrants and raised in London, this lifestyle is alien to me, and I do not aspire to it. But this is not necessarily a negative observation as, although I do not aspire to emulate their lifestyle, I aspire to emulate their success which I hope to fit in with my own lifestyle. 

It is important to note that it is not just a gender issue when seeking to achieve a truly diverse workplace as elements of the lifestyle of our leaders may be alien to many people from different walks of life, from white middle class, middle aged women, to younger black working class men. A culture of inclusion is what is needed to improve diversity, not simply focusing on any one area of difference."
                                          ...and on female role models
Sam: "Very important. I believe role models, especially at an early stage of your career, are incredibly important in showing you the type of leader you could (and would like to) become in the future. However I believe that we are not just limited to one or two role models but in fact identify traits from many different people that we ourselves aspire to have. Therefore the more diverse a range of role models to choose from the better and more diverse traits to look up to. Without female role models that's an immediate 50% cut in possible role models. In fact I probably have a 60:40 split of men and women that I could name as being role models, and that male skew is probably naturally due to being a guy myself."

Salama: "When selecting a role model, gender does not play a part for me. I instead find that my role models are individuals who hold the same values as I do, have overcome challenges I am likely to face, or individuals who inspire awe from having overcome their own personal challenges."
Felix: "It's critically important that there are female role models in all walks of life so that young women can actually see that all options are open to them and that there are no stereotypically male and female jobs. The only way to give that effect is to be able to experience women performing these roles, without that, certain jobs do become seen as favouring one gender or the other. If this happens, you end up missing out on half of the available talent pool as people will be dissuaded from taking on roles that are seen as not being appropriate to them. This effect could also account for the glass ceiling effect as the preponderance of males in leadership positions may make roles like that less desirable for women."

Lara: "I think it is important to have female role models as it reassures me that a) women can actually get to high positions and b) still manage being a mother, wife etc. In terms of aspirations though, as long as I have a good role model and someone to look up to and aspire to become like, it doesn’t matter if they’re male or female."
Socks & crumbs (or the bit at the bottom)
Heard it through the (corporate) grapevine...

- On 29 July (12.30pm), We Are The City will be hosting a webinar on building your personal brand (Branding is not just for Coca Cola) with Sonia Brown MBE (founder of the National Black Women's Network and SistaTalk). Sign up for free. 

- Women on Boards is running one of its regular workshops 'Getting Started: Realising your board potential' in London on 5 August for women who are thinking of taking up directorship positions.

- Sign up early for Andy Woodfield's Genius, Power, Dreams introductory workshop on 18 September which encourages you to realise your true potential at work. Check out Andy's TedX talk for a taster!
This week I will be...

- watching the #likeagirl video by Lauren Greenfield which has redefined what it means to act 'like a girl' and moved men and women to tears with 31 million views in 1 week! 

- rediscovering my inner kid and lots of new facts with the top 10 infographics of 2013 (my faves - Elon Musk vs Tony Stark and 50 things to do when you're stuck at an airport)

- wondering if I could pull off a flamingo hood onesie by Young Ones apparel (see what we did there!)

- savouring brunch at The Riding House Cafe (in particular the elderflower jelly and clotted cream icecream - mmm)
It's a man's world - maybe we aren't so different after all 

Young entrepreneur

10 year old Henry Patterson has been hailed as the youngest entrepreneur in Britain having started his sweets business 'Not Before Tea' at 9 years old and smashed his profit forecast in a matter of weeks.

The Daily Mail compared him to a young Gordon Gekko, but he says he is more like Lord Sugar... but happier!

Henry has creative control over his online sweet business coming up with characters Sherb the Owl and Pip the mouse to add additional merchandise to the brand. He has even written accompanying books - 'The adventures of Sherb and Pip'
In September he will open his first shop in Buckingham. 

"I love having a spinning chair, business cards with my name on and wearing a name badge at conferences. Business is all about making things and talking to interesting people and that is why I love business."

But his parents (who have been helping him with the business) make sure he still gets to enjoy being a 10 year old.

As Henry says "My mother always makes sure that I don't do anything too serious for very long. Last week I was live on CNBC business programme in the morning and then went pond dipping in the afternoon followed by an alien hunt in the woods. It was a perfect day."

Sounds like the perfect balance to us!
Mr Smith's corner

Mr Smith gives us his thoughts for the week.
Highlights: You seem to have pulled off a Cliff Richard poster in this edition - how have you managed that? My mum is going to love it though! School breaks up this week so the little Mr Smith's have been uber excited all week. School sports day was a classic - grass stains, grazed knees, dads race (nothing to report there) and a 1st place medal in the egg and spoon race for No.3 son - he really wanted that one, as demonstrated by the gritted teeth and sharp elbows. Not sure where he gets that from...

Lowlights: Stuck in the office in summer is no fun at all! I keep seeing these happy smiley faces and wafer thin handover notes heading in my direction. No hols for me till mid August so will have to hang in there a bit longer. For those of you who are about to depart, here are a few tips for your out of office messages... No. 4 seems to resonate!

Lesson learnt: Bone marrow transplants. I have a family friend suffering with Leukemia who requires a bone marrow transplant. This involves stem cells being stimulated in a donor and then extracted through a blood sample then provided to the patient. For the donor it's a pretty straightforward process - no bones involved at all. Anthony Nolan work tirelessly to make life saving matches but more donors is key. Everything is crossed for Riya to find a match soon (check out Save Riya Now on facebook).
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