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Global network adds a vital string to their bow

Carly Chynoweth
The Times 9 October 2008

The Times 'Where Women Want to Work Top 50' survey 2008

The Top 50 is a reliable and trusted reference for women seeking to choose the right employer. Competition between organisations was extremely tough, and identifying only 50 was certainly challenging.

The Where Women Want to Work Top 50 invited organisations with more than 1,000 employees in the UK to submit detailed entries to Aurora, which undertook the study for The Times.

Organisations were required to address three key areas: how they effectively recruit top female talent; how they retain and develop female employees; and to give some examples of their successful female role models.

Carly Chynoweth looks at some initiatives that encourage staff to progress

A business is only as good as its people. Whether it manufactures widgets or provides strategic financial advice, it relies on its employees to do the work and come up with the ideas that make it profitable. All the more reason, then, to ensure that every person, male and female, has the opportunity to develop their professional abilities.

That is certainly the approach taken by Nortel, a telecommunications company. “The underlying principle is that if we help our people to succeed, we will help our business to succeed,” says Robin Smith, director of global diversity.

Neil Amos, a partner in PA Consulting’s government practice, takes a similar view. “Consulting is an interesting business because people progress when a company grows,” he says. In other words, the better the staff do, the better the business does, thus creating more promotion opportunities. One of the ways that Nortel helps women to succeed is through women’s business councils. These are part of a global network that links women through activities such as book clubs and speaking events.

The councils provide an opportunity for women to network and to increase their profile globally, both by attending events and becoming local organisers. At least one woman has been offered a new job as a result. Smith says: “The vice-president who hired her would not have heard of her but for her involvement.”

PA also offers networking opportunities. It has a programme, open to all interested staff, to help leaders to develop. “It is an informal forum to explore styles of leadership,” Amos says. This informality stops people from feeling that they are being assessed during the events and so allows them to open up and learn.

The Bank of New York Mellon has launched an initiative called the Bowstring Group to support the bank’s women. Bowstring has several subgroups that cover areas such as work-life balance and community affairs, while the bank also offers a range of workshops, forums and mentoring programmes. In addition, the company will be launching family friendly policies to complement its existing approach to work-life balance.

Eversheds, the law firm, is another that takes work-life balance seriously, says Caroline Wilson, its director of diversity. “We were the first law firm to launch a lifestyle programme back in 2002 and that allowed anybody, including partners, to say they would like to work flexibly,” she says.

The firm also supports and promotes the achievements of lawyers such as Pamela Thompson, a partner and the head of Eversheds’ financial services team, who is seen as something of a role model.

McKinsey & Company, the management consulting firm, is another business taking steps to develop its women staff. Andrea Minton Beddoes, the UK director of communications, says: “We are very conscious that this is a demanding career choice, so we work hard to support the development needs of our staff.” Initiatives include coaching, a women’s network and help for mothers, such as emergency childcare.

The company is also determined to develop discussion more broadly, holding one-day seminars that bring together 120 students and professional women from a range of organisations to listen to speakers, participate in discussions and take part in workshops. “We want to further the debate around women and leadership,” Minton Beddoes says. “We place a lot of emphasis internally but we also recognise that this is a broader issue.”

Contact the telecommunications team

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