Opportunity Now Showcases Women in the Workplace Initiatives

Lorna Cooney Pr Officer








Blog by Laura Cooney, Communications Officer, Opportunity Now

I attended the Opportunity Now Best Practice Spotlight event, generously hosted by Microsoft, which showcased the 2013 Opportunity Now Awards for Excellence winners. As a recent addition to the Opportunity Now team, it was an excellent chance to learn about how the awards process works and to get a better idea of the work that is being done by our award winners and members to improve gender equality.

The event looked at a wide range of issues and good practice across a number of industries through presentations from this year’s winners. These included hard-coding diversity requirements into employees’ performance plans and developing programmes which had a global nature but could be easily localised at BNY Mellon, and Genesis Housing, who not only share data publicly but drill down into statistics such as representation of women at different levels. Melanie Richard from KPMG talked about harnessing voices on gender equality across a range of areas within a business and getting people excited about making a difference, whilst Pauline Miller of State Street told us how they created  unconscious bias programmes to specifically target middle managers.

The afternoon presentations covered AstraZeneca’s use of local knowledge to understand the needs of women in different global markets and BAE Systems, who are engaging young women in the possibility of STEM careers through work experience, strong links with schools and mentoring programmes. Finally, we heard about PwC’s Partner Board Sponsorship Programme where board members worked with female partners to help them move into more visible leadership roles, and the pilot job share programme and toolkits for promoting flexible working to managers developed by KPMG.

There was also a fascinating discussion led by Opportunity Now’s Acting Director, Kathryn Nawrockyi, with Helen Hodgkinson of Nationwide and Theresa McHenry from Microsoft. The discussion included many issues relating to the awards process and the Times Top 50 Employers for Women, such as completing the application and promoting the companies’ involvement both internally and externally. Kathryn also introduced Nationwide as the Opportunity Now awards sponsor and the reasons behind this, particularly their removal of advertising from Facebook after being posted on pages which promoted violence against women. For an organisation that has a relationship with a quarter of UK households, this was a huge stand to take and shows the company is serious about improving its gender equality.

Many of the companies talked about their clients’ requests for more diverse workforces as a key driving force in their gender equality programmes, as well as the need to adapt to the needs of different cultures around the world, the importance of engaging leadership at all levels, unconscious bias and communicating the importance of gender equality to their workforce. It was really interesting to see the different approaches from the companies in how they addressed these issues as well as those unique to their sectors. Overall, I found the event fascinating and a great insight into the work that’s going on, and am looking forward to seeing what the 2014 winners do!