Introducing our latest members
Q and A with Francesca Stone, Diversity and Inclusion lead at Schneider Electric.
Could you tell us a bit about Schneider Electric?
We are a global leader with 180 years of heritage in energy management, automation, software and services, employing around 20,000 across 130 countries.
We are proud to have attracted over 23,000 women in the last 3 years. However we like many other employers in a STEM industry, recognise that we have to constantly strive to develop ways to engage, attract and retain women.
How did you hear about Working Forward and why did you decide to join?
Nikunj Upadhyay, Diversity Manager at Barclays got in touch with me to tell me about all the good work Barclays is doing as a Founding Member of Working Forward.
Joining was an easy decision for us. Although we already belong to other partnerships such as the United Nations HeForShe movement, we wanted to join Working Forward to benefit from other employers’ experiences as well as share some of our own learnings along the way.
We are proud of our retention figures but have set a target of 42% female representation in the business by 2018 and won’t achieve this without working with our peers. For us this isn’t a HR ‘programme’ but a key part of our business strategy to help us build an inclusive and high performing company.
I’m very much looking forward to meeting other members in the near future.
Can you describe some of the steps you have taken to help attract and retain working mothers?
Our diversity approach is built on a four pillar strategy to include women at every level of the company. Culturally we have senior support from the top of the organisation led by our President Jean-Pascal Tricoire who has made sure that the senior leadership team are right behind it.
We offer gender workshops for our leaders, women in leadership programmes, a women returners’ programme, inclusion ambassadors and a flexible working policy for not only mothers but fathers too. These steps have helped us to increase the number of women working for us from 26% to 36.5%.
Founding Member profiles
“Women don’t just need to have confidence in themselves, but also in their employer, to know that they are being heard and have the support they need,” she says. “There is so much female talent in this organisation, women who have helped to grow and lead the business with substantial knowledge and experience to share. It is crucial for Barclays to harness and nurture that talent, which is why the coaching programme is so important: women have told me that it has been critical to their continued development and success here.”
BT Group has seen a high return rate among employees in response to a company-wide commitment to supporting pregnant women and new mothers.
“Our return rate for women after maternity leave is almost 86 per cent compared with the national average of 77 per cent,” explains Marc Allera, CEO of EE and BT Gender Sponsor. “We want to make sure that our people can thrive with us, whoever they are, and that we retain the brilliantly diverse talent they bring to our organisation. Supporting women taking maternity leave and returning to work through a number of specific policies, initiatives and programmes is an essential part of this.”
Lara Nicoll, Manager Diversity and Inclusion, Ford
“Ford Motor Company seeks to be an employer of choice and recognises the value and competitive advantage women bring to the workplace.
“In seeking to attract, recruit and retain women the Company offers a wide range of supportive measures to new and expectant mothers, including offering in house maternity workshops, providing dedicated maternity advisors and taking a proactive approach to agile working. These support actions combined with an employee parenting support network contribute to the Company’s 98% maternity return rate.”
Tracey Killen, Personnel Director, The John Lewis Partnership
“We believe that the ability of our managers to engage with and support working mothers benefits the individual, their family and the business,” says Personnel Director Tracey Killen. “Investment in the right support and providing both parties with practical guidance can make a real difference to our working mothers – from when they discover they are becoming a parent, in their time away from work and, importantly, on their return to work – and to the people who manage them.”
Ruby McGregor-Smith, former CEO, Mitie
We want to recruit, retain and develop the very best, and that means getting the right mix of people,” says Mitie CEO Ruby McGregor-Smith, who is the company’s first female board member and has a personal commitment to supporting women within the organisation.
“As a working mother with two children, I know the challenges faced in balancing a career with family. Mitie takes a more progressive approach to flexible working, and offers additional support such as childcare vouchers and a maternity coaching programme. I have also set five year internal targets to make sure all areas of diversity are met across the business.”
Ann Brown, Divisional Director of Human Resources, Nationwide Building Society
“We understand that returning to work as a new mother can be an exciting but also a potentially daunting prospect, not least because of the sheer pace of change in any workplace. Understanding this, and supporting pregnant women to prepare for their maternity leave and then helping them experience a smooth transition back to work, is incredibly important. As a result, the vast majority (almost 86 per cent) of our female employees who become mothers choose to return to their careers at Nationwide and we work with them to make their return as seamless as possible.”
Royal Mail has trialled innovative ways to ensure all women, including pregnant women and new mothers, have access to relevant opportunities to build their careers and feel valued. This includes a regular survey of current and previous employees who have taken maternity leave in the last five years to understand and learn from their experiences, and the establishment of a new Parents and Carers Steering Group.
Jon Millidge, Director of Group HR, Royal Mail
“Royal Mail is proud to be one of the founding members of Working Forward. Women are a crucial part of our workforce and this diversity is hugely important to us. As such we have made gender equality part of our business strategy.
“It is important that women who are pregnant, or that have recently returned from maternity leave, are valued for the skills they can offer, and while there is more to do, we believe an engaged and motivated female workforce gives us a business advantage.”
Tricia Riley, Director of Human Resources, Transport for London (TfL)
“We believe it is vital to support working parents at TfL. We have a number of initiatives to help support our employees during pregnancy, maternity leave, returning to work and beyond. We have also just created a Parental Community, which raises awareness about the impact of being a working parent, as well as a ‘Buddy’ scheme enabling employees to get advice from their colleagues about becoming or being a parent.”
The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) is the UK’s leading organisation for professional managers, representing and supporting over 81,000 members and committed to promoting and setting the standards in management excellence.
Neil Carberry, Director for People and Skills policy, CBI
“Many businesses have policies to tackle pregnancy and maternity discrimination, but raising awareness about good practices is also an important part of helping employers to better support working mothers.
“This is not just critical for them and their families, it’s also vital for ensuring mothers can fulfil their potential in the workplace, to the benefit of both themselves and their employer.”
Laura Harrison, Director of People and Strategy, CIPD
“It’s fantastic to be part of this campaign and part of a community of organisations working together to end discrimination against pregnant women in workplaces. Employers need to take this seriously and be prepared to encourage a supportive and inclusive culture so that people's actions reflect the right values and behaviour around diversity.
“Not only is this the right thing to do morally, but businesses will only reach their potential when they give themselves the widest access to talent and this means building and sustaining opportunities and choices for women to be as economically active as men. Leadership from the top is vital as is investing in people management skills and ensuring your workplace practices are truly inclusive”
Helen Walbey, Diversity Chair, Federation of Small Businesses
“This is an important campaign highlighting the benefits of supporting mothers to return to the workforce. Employers want talented staff back in the business, and flexible working practices are becoming commonplace in many small firms.
“Supporting mothers and pregnant women helps boost morale, productivity, staff recruitment and retention, and ultimately sales and profitability. So it’s both the right thing to do and makes clear business sense."
Lady Barbara Judge, Chairman, Institute of Directors
“Women make up half of the UK workforce but the so-called ‘motherhood penalty’ means some women still face barriers to moving up the career ladder. Progress has been made in advancing the cause of women in business, but there is more work to do, so we welcome this initiative.
“Companies that fail to attract, develop and retain female employees will lose out in the war for talent. As well as being the right thing to do, there is a clear business case for tackling the remaining barriers to workplace equality.”
The South West Contact Centre Forum (SWCCF) is an industry-led initiative, which supports the call and contact centre sector in the South West. Established in 2008, the SWCCF covers one of the largest regions in the UK, and is home to over 250 contact centres employing approximately 52,000 people.
The Welsh Contact Centre Forum is an industry-led employers' forum, which delivers extensive support to over 200 employers who collectively generate more than £400 million a year for the Welsh economy.
Some of our members include:
Last updated: 05 Sep 2017