24 The Costco Connection JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017
tainly where I found mentors … helpful as
a sounding board.
CC: What are some other things that
hold women back from being successful in
SW: Improving diversity of all types
and at all different levels is good for the
business and good for the culture change
that [Royal Mail] needed to go through.
So why is that important? The things
that can hold women back are lack of
opportunity, having a sense that there are
no role models that they can look up to, a
sense that the opportunities are only available for male colleagues or people of a certain type in an organisation.
If women are the main caregiver at
home for either children or
elderly relatives, they may need
some additional support, and
a lack of flexibility can be an
issue to overcome. Unconscious bias, I think, can play a
role in holding people back as
well. People giving opportunities to others who are “like
them” is a good example.
Lack of training can be
another one. There are certain areas where women, as
well as men, need training
and development. One of the
things that we’ve done at
Royal Mail, for example, is
making sure that we have
50-50 male-female representation on our senior development programme that we’ve
been working on with the Saïd Business
School, University of Oxford.
We’ve also invested in a programme
called Springboard, which is for frontline
colleagues wanting to move into junior
management positions. And we’ve done a
lot of work on providing for the mentoring
and sponsorship programmes to help
women build their confidence, identify
their ambition and be able to take advantage of opportunities as they emerge. All of
these are factors which can hold women
back in the workplace.
We’ve had to look at our end-to-end
recruitment approach. We’ve had to
change our recruitment collateral,
because if you see photos of men in all of
the recruitment advertising, as a female,
you’re going to feel like “Well, maybe this
isn’t the job or the role for me.”
[In our recruitment] we’ve had to talk
about the fact that we have female drivers:
we have women who work all across the
operation. We’ve had to retrain our asses-
sors around questions of bias. We’ve gone
for an approach of balanced shortlisting,
which was a bold decision the company
made. But [we needed] to make sure that
we were getting the right mix of people on
our recruitment shortlist in frontline
operations and in managerial positions.
CC: What has Royal Mail done to support other groups besides women?
SW: We’ve set up a diversity council.
And over the last 18 months this is getting
real traction. Within the diversity council
we have been looking at our ethnic mix, our
LGBT colleagues, those with a disability,
parent and carers groups, younger people
as well as older colleagues. [We are] really
trying to build networks, build understanding around some of the challenges
that are facing these different groups and
assess what kind of support networks and
approaches we can put in place. We’ve carried out research into this and are implementing solutions. In the summer, Royal
Mail took part for the first time in the
Pride in London Parade, part of the Pride
Festival for the LGBT community.
CC: How do you balance a successful
career while raising a family?
SW: There are three things during my
career that have been absolutely essential
for me to be able to be ambitious in my
professional aspirations but also fulfil my
role as a parent.
I had to feel passionate about what I’m
doing in my career. Because in order to
make the trade-off, I’ve had to feel that my
career and the job were rewarding and fulfilling and important.
A second thing for me is prioritisation
and laying the ground rules. I’ve been very
conscious of what boundaries I needed to
set for myself. I found that if you looked at
life on a weekly basis, then it was very
hard to think you had a reasonable balance. But if I looked at it over a few months
and kept things in perspective, then I
could see how I could get a balance. And by
putting the boundaries in place and being
clear on some non-negotiables to protect
my family life and things that I wanted to
do with my children, at the same time
making it clear what was important to me,
I was able to find a way through it.
The third thing that I would say is you
have to sort out the childcare. When
you’re managing a career and a family,
that is an important ingredient. At Royal Mail we have a
nursery on site at Mount
Pleasant and offer employees
childcare vouchers. In addition,
through our Parents & Carers
Steering Group, employees
have access to support and
guidance from Employers for
Carers and Working Families.
CC: What advice would you
give women trying to further
SW: Really take a step back
and think about what it is that
you are passionate about and
what it is that you want to achieve
in your career and your life. And
to try and avoid saying, “I can’t
do something.” Turn it on its
head and say, “How could I do something?
What would it take for me to do this role?”
Sometimes women can close down opportunities too quickly. Examine your ambition and what it is that you want to achieve.
And line up the support network that
you need to have to accomplish your ambition, which includes explaining to people
why a particular job might be important to
you, but also what other things in your life
might be important to you. You need to be
able to talk to people about how to manage
those things together. People need to work
together to make things happen.
Women and men can hold back from
having those conversations to say, “Look,
this is what I want to do. This is what I
want to achieve. But you need to know that
I’ve got these other things here, and so I
need to be able to manage all of this.” And
too often I hear people say, “If only I’d
known that, then we could have found a
way around it.” C
A BEACON OF CHANGE
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 23
“… I think sometimes,
for a lot of women,
a lack of con;dence
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