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Andrew McNeilis: "Gender balance makes great business sense."

​International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for communities and organisations around the world to raise awareness about accelerating gender parity. Here at Phaidon International, we take this day to celebrate the contributions women make to our business and our daily lives. We sat with Andrew McNeilis, our CCO, to ask what International Women’s Day means to her.

Hi Andrew, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi, I’m the Chief Commercial Officer and I’ve been at Phaidon International for over six years now, and I’m loving it!

Thinking about the people in your life and career who have impacted you, who would you say are your female role models?

In my personal life, I’d absolutely have to say my wife, my daughter and, probably, above all my mother. She’s a 4ft 11, Northern bred, lives in Yorkshire, tough 80 year old lady. She absolutely taught me the ethos of "work hard and be nice to people." She’s the toughest, loveliest person. So, I’m forever in her debt. She’s a pocket rocket.

In my career, there’s a lady called Joanne Donnelly – again from the north, but further up in Scotland. She took no prisoners. She taught me how to price and negotiate and deliver major contracts and I’m grateful to her for that.

Probably around the world, in terms of historical female role models. I’d say Baroness Margaret Thatcher who sadly passed away and is no longer with us. I think she turned around a country on its knees. She had an incredible impact and was the United Kingdom’s first female Prime Minister. I had the pleasure of meeting her and she told me to budge up off my seat! I remember her famously saying, “No one would remember the Good Samaritan unless he had some money.” That’s stuck with me.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

I think International Women’s Day is an opportunity to build on our successes to date, but also recognises that gender balance has not been addressed yet. It’s also a chance to continue driving company awareness that having female talent in the workforce and better gender balance both ways is a vital ingredient of success today and in the future.

The theme for this year’s IWD is #BalanceforBetter. What do you think companies can do to create better gender balance?

I would focus on three things. Firstly, where are you today? Companies should benchmark what good gender balance looks like and have an honest conversation with themselves about where their company is today. Frankly, it doesn’t matter about the competition. Where is your company today in terms of gender balance? That’s the first question I’d ask myself as the CEO of the company.

Secondly, I would get out into the communities and reach out to females at the age of eleven, fourteen, eighteen – market your career opportunities to women much earlier. By the time it gets to the milk round I think you’ve missed an opportunity.

The third thing I’d do is have role models in the business, but, before all, get your CEO to sponsor better gender balance internally. Gender balance is not an HR issue, it’s not an issue just in wider society – it also makes great business sense. Get the C-Suite to sponsor better gender balance and prove that by caring and hiring the right people.