Succeeding in our North Star ambitions means a lot of things. It means questioning when we don’t believe something to be right, it means being persistent in the face of challenges, being proud of what we have achieved, but never complacent in our position. Essentially it means living our behaviours of Care, Challenge and Commit. These qualities have to permeate throughout our whole organisation and something we have to defend when it’s thrown into question.
Last week, the Financial Times issued an article attacking BEIS, our government department, for the lack of female representation in the 47 public bodies and agencies that operate with them. Quite rightly, the FT were scrutinising BEIS for the lack of female representation in their partner organisations. Women chair just four of the 47 organisations and of the 36 that have a chief executive, only seven had a woman in said position.
We were dismayed however when the article failed to mention the great female leaders that we have within our organisation. It was at this point, that those three qualities and behaviours kicked in and we decided to act.
Our behaviours in action
We care about the reputation of our business and are proud that we have created a workplace which allows our people to flourish and reach their full potential. This article failed to show that although our Chairman is, of course, a man, our chief executive, general counsel and retail chief executive are all women – not to mention the many inspiring female senior leaders we have throughout the organisation.
We decided to challenge. After the article was published, we were compelled to defend our organisation. In a letter written to the publication Paula spoke of the great female leaders within our organisation, advocating our desire for a rich and diverse workforce. The passion with which Paula stated our case, has caused the FT to publish her letter and lead them to edit their original article to be more representative of the true gender balance within our workplace. This is a real success for us as a business and something we should celebrate.
But we also commit to making things better. Gender imbalance within business and industry is a systemic issue, something we have recognised and fought to set right. Initiatives such as our Women in Leadership group and our Return to Work Network are a great start but we know there is more work to be done to ensure we have an environment that allows everyone, both women and men, to flourish and reach their full potential.
By challenging this article we have demonstrated that these behaviours aren’t just a collection of words on a lanyard or a handy bit of alliteration to have on our corporate website, they are essential to our success. We’ll continue to live our behaviours with fervour and tenacity as we progress in our North Star ambitions and look forward to where they will take us in the future.