CEO's Journal: Cherie Blair speaks her mind
This morning we hosted the Harvey Nash Annual Business Breakfast in the City, featuring Susan Haird (Deputy CEO of UK Trade & Investment) and Cherie Blair (barrister and spouse of the former Prime Minister for Britain, Tony Blair).
Susan Haird stood in for Lord Jones (Digby to many of us) and did an outstanding job of bringing out the many competitive advantages the UK has in the global marketplace. Of course, the current "direction of travel" is concerning business and we urged Susan to relay to Lord Jones and the government that as a community we need fiscally responsible administration, competitive tax and policies, wage restraint and the strength to stand up to special interests in the interests of the country as a whole.
The topic was diversity and equality in the workplace and our responsibility to implement policies and cultures which support equal opportunities for all, based on sound values and respect for human dignity.
Cherie Blair is an excellent and charismatic speaker. Contrary to perhaps the tabloid’s expectation of a practising barrister defending human rights in the British workplace, she presented sympathetic views to strong opinions expressed by some members of the audience, particularly for small business and the impact on costs of the regulation in this area. Cherie also shared thought provoking practical solutions and answers to these and other questions of flexibility and the work-life balance debate.
Cherie is a champion for women’s rights the world over and in her former role, as spouse to the British Prime Minister, she often sneaked away to pursue her passion for understanding the role of women in emerging economies and to show concern for their upliftment. Cherie spoke engagingly about her experiences in Saudi Arabia for example.
What does this mean for us. Well, Generation Y are entering the workplace and are the leaders of tomorrow. And then there is Generation A. The 400m twenty to forty somethings in Asia Africa and Latin America described by analysts at Macquarie bank as the key consumer group to drive global business mega trends in the next twenty years.
We will of course need to hire talent drawn from these groups, and indeed provide the goods and services they seek. They are particularly attuned to Cherie Blair’s message and are asking hard questions of business, not only concerning diversity but also in the area of climate change, the environment and respect for human rights.
Cherie ended her speech with outlining the key to upliftment and equality. Its all about education and skills. Nobody said it better than Nelson Mandela, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
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