International Women's Day 2018

Thursday 14 July 2016

International Women’s Day, Thursday 8th March 2018

by Nina Tanner, People Director

Today marks International Women's Day. The one day each year that countries, companies and individuals collectively celebrate women and symbolically champion both women's rights and the ongoing drive for gender parity.

Those who know me will also know that I'm hugely passionate about inclusion, and within the context of women's rights, specifically about supporting and encouraging women to feel empowered to do whatever they want to.

I've not always had the strongest or loudest voice on this topic (at least not at work), and it's taken me time and confidence to even start to speak out on this subject openly. That said, having recently taken on the role as People Lead of our Inclusion Programme (working with our Exco Sponsor, Kristine Olson-Chapman), it wouldn't have felt right to stay silent today.

And 100 years on from earning the right to vote, 2018 is already shaping up to be an equally momentous year for women. Not least due to the visibility of global movements, such as #MeToo and #TimesUp. Arguably, there has never been a more important time for companies like TalkTalk to make their stance on subjects such as gender parity clear…and that's exactly what we're doing.

The 30% Club

I wanted to use today to 'officially' launch our partnership with the 30% Club, which represents just one of the initiatives we're getting behind this year in our drive to cultivate a more inclusive and diverse workplace.

For those of you not aware, the 30% Club was born nearly 10 years ago – the work of a very formidable woman named Helena Morrissey (check her out!). Helena worked at Goldman Sachs at the time and was particularly interested in gender diversity at executive level, especially because at this time only 10-15% of senior roles were being filled by women.

Helena was the first person to propose that in order to establish more diverse teams (and we all know that research is now very clear on the fact that diverse teams yield better results), some goals needed to be set. 30% was chosen because research suggests that this is the point at which critical mass is reached…that voices start to be heard in their own right. At the time (and in fact today still), it was also aspirational and would have meant doubling the number of women in executive roles.

The 30% Club started out as a campaign focused on lobbying corporate boards – the very people who had the power to change the shape of their leadership teams. Since then, the organisation has evolved and is respected now for its voice on women in leadership, its network for fostering and developing women in business, and then for the many initiatives it coordinates with the intention of empowering women and businesses alike to make more senior female appointments to leadership teams and boards. The key difference now – 10 years on - (which is hugely encouraging) is that there's much more focus on how to improve the gender balance from an early age; taking positive actions 'from schoolroom to boardroom'.

Cross-company mentoring scheme

The 30% Club have been running a cross-company mentoring programme with Women Ahead for the last few years, and 2018 marks TalkTalk's first involvement with this.

We've just kicked off a pilot scheme which sees 5 female mentees partnered with some pretty amazing male and female mentors in other companies and sectors. I am one of these mentees, and I've been matched with a very inspirational woman named Natalie who is currently CMO at Whitbread. I am due to kick off my first session with Natalie in the next couple of weeks, and I'll keep you all posted on the experience. In addition, we have nominated 5 members of our senior team who will join the programme as mentors to women in other companies. These are Mark Dickinson, Duncan Gooding, Dan Richardson, Kristine Olson-Chapman and Derek Cheng.

We'll build a proper understanding of the benefits of this scheme as the trial progresses over the next few months, but put simply, I think we believe there are tons of ways in which we'll collectively all benefit from being involved in something like this. Our mentees will get brilliant support advancing their careers and building their professional networks, while our mentors will similarly learn a lot – this is a two-way process, reciprocal mentoring if you like.

In terms of next steps, we plan to open up applications across the business for individuals to join the next round of cross-company mentoring in the Autumn, so watch this space for future updates!

Who inspires you?

And so finally, on International Women's Day, let's all take a moment to share our stories about the women in our lives who've inspired us, and recognise their achievements.