Why businesses need a Women’s Network

Via O2

Aug 5, 2016

By Tara Rule: Head of Trading Performance, Telefónica UK

I recently took on the role of Chair of the Women’s Network for O2. I did this because I’m passionate about helping people and making a difference (however small) in their lives and careers. The Women’s Network is here to empower people to be themselves at work and reach their full potential, while driving awareness of the importance of gender balance.

At O2, this role sits within the business – i.e. with someone like me, who has a full time role (I’m currently the Head of Trading Performance) – rather than being led by HR.

I find it amazing how many people have reached out to me wanting to help, whether it’s to be my Programme Coordinator, help me set up a mentoring scheme, or to present at one of our masterclasses. It’s great how many people find the gender issue important and want to make a difference within such a big corporate environment.

I am a firm believer in making sure you’re really clear on why you’re doing something (see my blog if you’d like to find out why!) So the first thing I did as Chair was to be really clear on what we believe in and set out our vision…

  • We believe we should generate an inclusive workplace that attracts, develops and retains the best talent
  • We believe we should have a diverse workforce that reflects and is in-tune with our customer base
  • We believe we can positively impact the issues that statistically impact women

I believe O2 is a company that strives to be diverse and inclusive, and a lot of people and teams shine as great examples. However we recognise that, like many organisations, we see a reduction of women the further up the organisation we look, and again like many technology-based companies, we have many teams and areas that are extremely gender unbalanced.

We want to be doing everything possible to positively impact these issues, which is why O2 has a Women’s Network and also a Women in Leadership programme. I believe that to be able to make a change, both women and men should be involved in the conversation and the Network and we’re passionate about ensuring we’re inclusive, with our action plans being focused on the areas that need the biggest change.

Here’s a small selection of the activities we run and why we encourage our employees to be members.

  • Develop skills – We ran ‘Negotiation Masterclasses’ run by Natalie Reynolds of Advantage Springs, with feedback saying 100% of people benefited from the session and would recommend it to a colleague. Future events that I’m really excited by include ‘How to be a Productivity Ninja’, ‘Personal Brand’ and ‘How to plan your next career move’.
  • Networking Opportunities – We had an idea to run a ‘Be Inspired’ event where we heard from 5 inspirational women from within our business on their own personal career journeys. This went down really well, plus we offer networking opportunities to put members in touch with people from other areas of the business.
  • Make a Difference – Our work expands out wider than just internally at O2, and we recently launched a mentoring programme for school girls called Step into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) partnering with BT, Vodafone and Ericsson.

Although I find myself in a situation now where I have a full-time, full-on job, two young girls, writing blogs on coaching, mentoring quite a few people at work plus now the Chair of the Women’s Network (so in short, just a little bit busy!) I’m so glad I took on the role. It is so satisfying when people let me know the difference a masterclass has had on their life, or how connecting with people and hearing the story of others has helped them realise what they’re thinking and feeling is perfectly normal.

And lastly it’s really helped me reflect on what’s important to me and how critical it is that I put myself in a position to be able to help people grow and develop. Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn to see future blogs.

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