30/09/2016 09:30 BST | Updated 30/09/2017 06:12 BST

Bringing 'Shine Theory' To The Corporate World

Working as a CEO in the tech sector has taught me a valuable lesson about people.

The simple truth is that people shine not when they compete, but when they collaborate.

The enemy of success is not failure. Failure teaches us some of our most valuable lessons in life.

No, that enemy is self-doubt and comparison.

If, like me, you are a woman in business, this will probably sound familiar.

Shine Theory says not. It is gently but effectively changing the way woman in the workplace relate to each other and move up the career ladder.

It recently emerged for instance that female staffers in the White House have been using Shine Theory, and, specifically "amplification" to make their voices heard, their contributions recognised and to support one another in the competitive, and often male-dominated, world of politics.

If it can work in that environment, I believe it can work in business just as effectively. It certainly seems to work.

In the White House example, amplification meant simply the reiterating points made by female colleagues, giving them credit for it, and collaborating together to amplify their individual voices.

Competition doesn't amplify, it too often diminishes by overlooking the contributions of others. In politics, and indeed in a business environment, what leaders need to hear are ALL the voices, or at least as many of them as possible - not just the ones who shout loudest.

So Shine Theory isn't just a feminist tool. Any business that fails to recognise and encourage a significant percentage of its workforce is surely doomed to fail.

Its no surprise then the White House example worked. Women became more visible, and during Barack Obama's second term, they gained parity with men in the president's inner circle.

Gender parity in the workplace not only makes organisations more productive, but it also makes them more profitable. The Women And Work Commission reported that fully engaging women's full potential could be worth £23 billion per year to the UK economy. McKinsey has similarly reported that companies with the most women on their boards of directors significantly outperform those with no women - by 41% in terms of return on equity and by 56% in terms of operating results.

But in order to reach these goals, businesses, and indeed individuals, have to do a lot more.

99 per cent of all businesses in the UK are classified as SMEs. For many of these small organisations their main focus is on staying in the black, rather than gender equality. But the two don't need to be mutually exclusive.

Businesses need better systems in place in order to capitalise on the skills of all their employees. Far too often we see women not returning to work after having children, but these women have acquired unique experiences that companies can benefit from.

According to a report published this week by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, women returning from maternity leave are more likely to face discrimination in the workplace than they were a decade ago. The report also found that even when mothers were given the chance to work flexibly, over half said it cut their work opportunities and they felt their opinion was less valued.

The Commission rightly highlights this as a backward step for equality in UK, but business leaders should also be concerned.

Employee turnover is expensive. From the cost of recruitment to severance pay to losing valuable expertise and niche skills, all of it can have a serious impact on a small company. Any good CEO will bring each decision back to the bottom line, and the evidence is clear: support new mothers or pay a high price.

It's also much easier to achieve these goals given the recent advances in technology, allowing employees to work from home and organise their personal lives around work demands. If women were able to continue to work, but within more flexible parameters, businesses would not only retain the skills and talent, but productivity would improve.

Business leaders who are pragmatic and recognise the contemporary realities their companies are operating in are reaping the rewards. For instance when Google increased paid maternity leave to 18 weeks, the rate at which new mothers left fell by 50%.

There is substantial evidence that we need to rethink our Monday-Friday, 9-5 working week, so that our workplaces can be more equal. It is up to the business community to drive the culture change, not just because equality is something we surely must strive for, but also because it is the best thing for our companies. The women of the White House tackled their challenge straight on, speaking out and forcefully achieving their goals. UK business leaders must follow their lead and demand an improvement in our working culture, which will allow us to boost productivity.