‘We should not have to discuss gender equality anymore’

Café Rouge founder Karen Jones has become chancellor of the UEA.

Café Rouge founder Karen Jones has become chancellor of the UEA. - Credit: Archant

University of East Anglia chancellor Karen Jones is a co-founder of the Cafe Rouge chain of restaurants and former chief executive of the Spirit pub group.

When I'm asked about starting a business, my advice is pretty simple.

If you start a business just to make money then you will almost certainly fail. What a good business needs to succeed is a great idea, strong and energetic leadership, a clear set of values, a bit of money, and a bit of luck. Setting out just to make money rarely provides the fuel to drive and develop great enterprises.

Being an entrepreneur isn't a job in itself: it all starts with a passion for something you think you can do better than the competition, that you are willing to take some risks to try to make happen and which will create something that your customers will love. That's an ethos we support at UEA.

University should be a place where new ideas are born, opportunities discussed and potential business partnerships are forged. It's also important that universities like UEA play an active role as cheerleader and confidence-giver for students from all backgrounds.

I am a great believer that developing confidence is one of the greatest gifts we can help to give others. I am also passionate about the need for women to be present at every level of business and the requirement encourage and support that aim.

Simply put, gender equality should not be something we have to discuss any more. To my mind it's an act of extraordinary short-sightedness in which the seeds of destruction are amply sown if companies do not have gender balance. Broadly speaking, half your customers, half your team, half your market will be female. You ignore that at your peril.

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There is plenty of work still to be done. It's tough to ensure boards are balanced and female chief executives actively planned for. That all takes energy and determination and everyone engaged in business enterprises has a part to play.

Change on our high streets and within our business models is being driven by technological revolution and that change will only accelerate. To adjust, we'll need all the talent, values, and emotional intelligence we can get. And that in turn means a balanced and diverse workforce – everywhere.