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Promoting Gender Diversity


Last week New Street hosted a panel led discussion on promoting gender diversity at Freemason’s Hall, London… and yes we were fully aware of the irony of the chosen location!

We had an excellent panel consisting of:

  • Jane Scott (VP & CIO, Mars Petcare)
  • Ralph Tribe (People Director, Sky)
  • Laurence Tanty (Non-Exec Board Member, Fairtrade)
  • Toby Mildon (Diversity & Inclusion Lead, BBC).

Each of them has been involved in driving the gender diversity agenda within their respective organisations – past and present – from either within People/Talent or as an executive sponsor.

They shared valuable experiences and advice around a subject which is on the radar of almost all major corporations.

I have summarised some of the key discussion points from the event, which focused on 3 topics – initiating a gender diversity agenda, talent acquisition and culture/retention.

How can individuals, whether that be those in Talent or other parts of the business, initiate a gender diversity agenda and get stakeholder sponsorship?

  • In order for a gender diversity programme to be successful it needs executive sponsorship and for the board to push the message – if you can’t make this happen then there is little point investing your own time and effort.
  • Buy-in is most likely to come from an emotional rationale than a commercial one. There is a lot of intelligence to support the commercial reasons but generally emotion drives the behaviour needed for cultural change.
  • Does your current culture and stance on gender equality match your corporate values and how you want to be perceived to your customers – if not what needs to change to make this happen.
  • Set goals – make sure they are achievable but also measurable in the short term. There is no point setting goals for years ahead when those individuals responsible for achieving them might no longer be around.

What considerations are needed when looking at a more inclusive talent acquisition strategy?

  • While it sounds simple, you need to have 100% exposure of all vacancies. In some instances vacancies are filled through direct networks. These networks are often by the nature poor in diversity and not inclusive.  Expose all vacancies to ensure inclusivity.
  • Review your talent acquisition process, in particular assessments to understand if they are subconsciously biased or if you can improve it to reflect differences in gender, something which Google is open about.
  • ‘Nudge’ women to apply – ‘Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them’. As noted in this article for HBR women need more confidence to apply for jobs when looking for progression or a change. Sponsorship by female executives is an excellent way to drive this.
  • Set rules, write them down and publish them. Whether it is a quota system or ensuring equality at shortlist stage (Sky have a 50/50 policy at interview) it is important to have rules that will drive diversity.
  • System disruptor – Toby Mildon discussed how technology can drive a more inclusive and less biased interview process. The BBC are trialling ‘blind assessments’ as part of their recruitment for digital talent, this has led to a more diverse candidate pool.

Achieving a more diverse and inclusive workforce will not be successful unless the culture enables the retention and progression of diverse talent, what are the key points in doing this?

  • Flexible benefits and working arrangement designed around a better lifestyle will support the varying needs of a diverse workforce.
  • Uncover the blind spots – Men and women need to work together and better understand blind spots to reduce subconscious bias by all genders.
  • Promote the culture – Diversity is very topical and most people are eager to support drive initiatives. Ensure you promote it so equality, diversity and inclusion become embedded in the culture and values of the business. It will then never go out of fashion.

There are many other key points that came out of this discussion and you can get a flavour of the event by watching this video.

One point to make is that while gender diversity is very topical at the moment, mainly down to government initiatives to publish gender pay gaps, it is only the tip of the iceberg on the broader subject of diversity and inclusion.

It is generally seen as a good place to start but it is important businesses do not stop there and they use successful gender diversity initiatives as a catalyst to tackle diversity and inclusion as a whole.

Charles McIntosh leads New Street’s Talent Consulting Practice providing research led solution to inform talent acquisition and retention strategies.


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