As the founder and editor of the Guardian’s Women in Leadership section and an inspiring TEDx speaker (see Proceed Until Apprehended and What yoga taught me about business, bravery and bras), Harriet Minter has helped inform, set the tone and lead the way for women in business since April 2013. Suit & Pie had the honour of sitting down with the eloquent Ms Minter to find out what a day in the life of the woman with ‘the best job in the world’ is really like.
Even though it’s a very personal site, my motivation was business orientated. Part of my role at the time was to look at what was working well on our site and I noticed a trend around articles for women in business. When I got on the tube in the morning everyone was reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, so it felt like there was a bit of a tidal wave coming. The Guardian has historically been synonymous with women’s rights and women’s issues so I wanted to make sure we didn’t miss an opportunity.
Have you had much pushback in terms of having a women only focussed section for business?
Not really actually. It’s been quite positive. Inevitably when you write an article about women, someone somewhere in the comments says ‘but what about the men?’ Actually there is a lot of content on the site that is relevant whether you are male or female but we just angle it slightly so that it comes from a female perspective. The other thing is that sometimes you have to invite women into stuff – you have to open the door and say ‘this is for you’. For men sometimes that can be intimidating but the reality is that right now there isn’t the same level of problems for men as there is for women in business. That is what the site set out to do – to solve the problem.
How do you keep content fresh on the site?
The concept of ‘fresh’ is interesting because actually in publishing there is no such thing as a new idea. We have definitely done ‘how to manage your boss’, ‘how to give a presentation’ but the readership for that grows each time and I think it’s about trying to find a new angle on it.
We also try to follow the news agenda and give a more nuanced, thoughtful perspective to some of the big screaming headlines about women and work.
Is the idea that everything will be so equal in the future that you won’t need a WIL section anymore?
That would be how we know we’ve won. When we stop talking about women in leadership and we start talking about the future of work because that is at its core what WIL is all about. Currently you are saying that half your workforce is dissatisfied with the way that we work. We are now moving to a place where people are looking at our working practices which are hundreds of years old and thinking that we’ve all moved on massively as a society in that time, technology has moved on in that time, but we still work in exactly the same way. Maybe now is the time to start thinking about changing that – changing our ideas of what success means, of what happiness means, of what business is for.
How do you meet and find the women that you feature in WIL?
Sometimes it will be through interesting things I’ve seen and I want to find out more about the person behind them. Sometimes it will be because I’ve read an article about someone interesting and I want to meet her. But a lot of it comes from recommendations from the women I meet. Women are particularly good at bigging up other women. Everyone has one person who they think is particularly amazing and interesting. If someone finds another woman impressive, there’s something about that woman that has made her relatable or connectable so you know that there’s a good story there from the beginning.
How do you get the men bought in?
The easiest thing you can do is start counting. Every time you go into a meeting – count the number of men and the number of women. Every time someone sends you a report – count the number of male and female authors. Every time you go to a conference – count the number of male and female speakers. And if you start doing that, you start doing it for everything – you’ll be sitting watching TV and you will see five adverts with men and that panel show with 4 guys and 1 woman and you will start to get really angry about it. One of the things that motivates men is having an equal playing field, but they just think they have it already. You just have to make them realise that it’s not.
A Day in the Life
6:30am: Alarm goes off with the Today Programme. I listen to see if there are any news stories that we should be picking up on. The programme got into trouble when it was revealed that 84% of their presenters and guests were male because they shape the news agenda for so many people for the rest of the day.
9am: Tube to work. When I get to the office, I try to keep my mornings clear and do the stuff that I don’t necessarily want to do first thing. I go through important emails but won’t get too bogged down. I try and do any writing for that day in the morning or commission someone to write something for me.
11am: I sit down with my colleague, Lottie, and discuss any news we found interesting, what we haven’t covered on the site that we need to, how our stats are performing. If there is anything that is done well that we should highlight to the group or anyone interesting we should interview or be a contributor.
1pm: I do meetings in the second half of the day. The best part of my job is that I get to meet really interesting people – so I might grab coffee with some senior female leaders. I also meet lots of women to discuss their next steps and act as a sounding board. I might go and meet a coach or one of my official or unofficial mentors and run through any problems or issues.
3pm: On the commercial side, I might have a meeting with our sales team to see if they need any help to monetise ideas or themes on the site. Then I might have a meeting with the wider editorial team to pick up any wider learnings.
5.30pm: I try to go to a couple of events each week – either female events which are more about networking, or industry events to find out what is happening in the media industry if there is anything interesting or relevant or new we can think of adapting. I might also see someone speak, or I’ll speak at something.
7pm: In the evenings I meet friends for dinner in town or go to yoga or the gym.
10.30pm: Bed! I check emails, play around on the internet, catch up on twitter. Lights off at 11pm.
I work a 4 day week with condensed hours, so I do 5 days of work in 4 days. I have Fridays off to do my own projects and am currently writing a few books – watch this space!