Winning for women in business: Opportunity Now announces its award winners

Eight UK organisations doing the most to progress women in the workplace were celebrated last night at the annual Opportunity Now Awards Dinner, part of Business in the Community’s Responsible Business Week.

Opportunity Now is Business in the Community's women at work campaign. The Women and Work Commission found that unleashing women’s full potential could be worth £23 billion a year to the Exchequer, reiterating the value to business in attracting, retaining and progressing women in the workplace. 

The appetite for accelerating change towards a better gender balance at all levels of a company has never been greater. Achieving this is proving much harder, however. Change needs to be driven by business leaders and embedded into everyday practices, rather than being solely the presence of HR teams or viewed as an add-on that aims to ‘fix’ the women.

- Helena Morrissey,
new Chair of Opportunity Now
Opportunity Now’s ten Excellence in Practice Awards recognise private and public sector organisations that have put gender at the core of their business agendas and are committed to creating inclusive workplaces for women at all levels. More than 500 business leaders gathered at The Brewery in the City of London for the awards ceremony, which was generously sponsored by Santander.

For the second year running, Opportunity Now partnered with the Government Equalities Office on the ‘Transparency Award’ to recognise a leading organisation that is taking action to promote gender equality in the workplace and is publicly reporting on its progress.  

Listed below are the 2013 Award winners:

  • Advancing Women in the Workplace Award

This award recognises initiatives that aid the recruitment, retention and/or development of women in the workplace. It was given to PwC for its Female Partner Sponsorship Programme, which seeks to accelerate the pace of change for senior women at PwC, with tailored personal development plans and direct support from executive board members. 

  • Agile Organisation Award

This award recognises an employer who has demonstrated an agile or flexible approach to job design and work environment. It was awarded to KPMG for its commitment to creating real culture change around flexible working by supporting line managers as enablers and increasing number of flexible workers in senior, client facing roles.

  • Champion Award

This award for a senior level gender/diversity ambassador who has made a significant contribution to advancing, promoting and embedding a diversity culture within the workplace goes to Melanie Richards, Partner and UK Board Member of KPMG. Melanie plays a critical role in keeping the issue of gender diversity top of the leadership agenda and has been instrumental in integrating advancement initiatives across all business functions.

  • Directing Diverse Talent Award - in association with the CIPD

This award was given to Sheena Wilson, Global Head of Talent Strategy at BNY Mellon, for her work to ensure no women’s ambition to be a leaders is impeded in anyway by her gender.

  • Female FTSE 100 Award and FTSE Executive Women Award* - in partnership with Cranfield School of Managementtt

The Female FTSE 100 Award is given to the UK FTSE 100 business with the most women on its board and the FTSE Executive Women Award is given to the UK FTSE 100 business that employs the most female executives. Both awards were given to Burberry, which has a 36,5% female board representation and is the only FTSE 100 company with two female executive directors (Angela Ahrendts, CEO, and Stacey Cartwright, CFO).

  • Global Award

This award is for a gender initiative which extends across at least three countries. It was awarded to AstraZeneca for its ‘Asia for Global’ talent development programme, designed to attract and retain local, diverse talent.

  • Inclusive Culture Award

This award recognises work which is creating equality at an organisational or cultural level. It was given to State Street for its global training programme, designed to build inclusivity across the whole company by working with mid-level managers and recruiters to understand unconscious bias, and all employees to foster an environment of engagement.     

  • Inspiring the Workforce of the Future

This award is for an organisation that has helped young women to broaden their career aspirations. It was awarded BAE Systems for its focus on attracting women into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related careers.

  • Transparency Award – in partnership with the Home Office 

This award recognises an organisation that has taken significant first steps to voluntarily publish gender metrics in the public domain. It was given to Genesis Housing Association for placing information on its workforce composition in the public domain, including breakdown by level and year on year maternity return rates.

The evening was presented by journalist and broadcaster Alice Arnold, and guests heard a keynote from Rita Clifton, Chair of Populus and Brand Expert, and speeches from Alison Platt CMG, Managing Director, International Development Markets Bupa and outgoing Chair of Opportunity Now 2009-2013, and Kathryn Nawrockyi, Director of Opportunity Now, with closing remarks from Stephen Howard, Chair Executive of Business in the Community.

Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investment Management, founder of the 30% Club and new Chair of Opportunity Now women at work campaign from Business in the Community, as of Thursday 18 April, said: “The appetite for accelerating change towards a better gender balance at all levels of a company has never been greater. Achieving this is proving much harder, however. Change needs to be driven by business leaders and embedded into everyday practices, rather than being solely the presence of HR teams or viewed as an add-on that aims to ‘fix’ the women.  I believe that more collaboration on best practice is needed and the Opportunity Now Awards can enable this to happen. I know from experience how robust the Awards process is and congratulate all the winners on their success.”

Karen M. Fortunato, Company Secretary and General Counsel at Santander UK plc, said: “In these gloomy economic times it could be all too easy to drop the ball on building diverse talent pipelines and workplaces that are inclusive to all. The Opportunity Now Award Winners prove that the commitment to supporting women in achieving their aspirations remains a business critical issue for employers today.  In recognising the economic returns of attracting, recruiting and progressing all talent equally, regardless of gender, these winning organisations and individuals are role models for what organisational culture change can achieve.”

Rt Hon Maria Miller MP. Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Minister for Women and Equalities, said: “The key to achieving equality in the workplace is not through tick box exercises or mandatory quotas. It’s about working with business to break down the barriers that women face throughout their working life. Transparency is a hugely powerful tool to drive change.  I am very pleased that many of the UK’s most recognised and successful firms have already volunteered to publish data on gender equality though our Think, Act, Report, initiative.  That is why the Opportunity Now Awards are so important, in recognising those organisations who are actively recruiting and progressing female talent.”

Kathryn Nawrockyi, campaign director of Opportunity Now, said: “This year we received an extremely strong cohort of applications, making the competition fiercer than ever. It is clear that employers are continuing to prioritise their focus on gender equality, recognising that what is good for business is good for society. The organisations represented here are leading lights in their sectors, and I know that these examples of excellence will inspire and influence others to maintain the momentum and accelerate change for women. Now more than ever, it is critical that we grow our movement and collaborate with more employers in the journey towards gender parity in the workplace.” 

For interviews with the winners, case studies, photographs of the evening or more information please contact Rebecca Gregory, Communications Officer, Opportunity Now:

T: +44(0)207 566 6670 | M: +44(0)7803 027 973 | E: rebecca.gregory@bitc.org.uk