Higher and Higher

5 Ways to Create an Inclusive Culture

The technology division of Vodafone, like far too many businesses, has openly been struggling to attract and retain talented women. The received wisdom was that this was down to recruitment. Consequently, it was perceived that as long as they could get more women into their recruitment pipeline, the problem would be resolved. They soon realised that this particular wisdom had come from senior management, who were mainly men. The ground-breaking moment, was when they decided to ask the women in Vodafone technology what they felt the real issue was. The feedback completely changed everything. The women felt it was far more about the lack of career advancement, than just the recruitment pipeline. In other words, why would you join a business that gave you very little opportunity to be promoted? This clear guidance from the people that are actually affected is always far more useful than generic or universal potential solutions. This change in approach and culture would require senior executive sponsorship.

Managers Talk Strategy – Leaders Tell Stories

Johan Wibergh, Group Technology Officer and CIO of Vodafone decided to lead an initiative to change this. They developed a clear focus on preparing and developing their talented women for senior positions. Alongside this was an exciting approach of ‘engaging’ with a large group of external talented women that work in a multitude of technology roles in different companies. Part of this engagement takes the form of a series of events hosted at Vodafone, that enables the targeted women to come inside Vodafone and get a real flavour and a taste of what it might be like to work there. This involves meeting and spending time with female and male senior managers who will share what their working environment is really like, and how women are supported and developed by the business. This approach is working and paying dividends. I had the opportunity to host and facilitate one of these sessions. It was held at a female friendly 5pm and finishing at 8pm. This timing has proven popular with the targeted women. About 80 women turned up, three of them with babies, and the event was extremely well received by all attendees. What appeared to be most popular was access to both senior and junior women who were prepared to share precisely what it was like to work at Vodafone – warts and all. They received some great feedback, and here are a couple of examples: “it was a really impressive event tonight – great thoughts, a strong panel and very interesting conversation! Definitely, think Vodafone should continue running these events and congrats on its inauguration – I hope it will continue for many years.” “Wanted to drop you a note to say congratulations on a great event last night … I was really impressed by the authenticity of the discussions and came away with a great impression of the culture at Vodafone.” It really does pay off to listen to those actually affected.

From Best Practice to Next Practice

  • Talk openly about your inclusion goals
  • Measure progress
  • Better understand the implications of unconscious bias
  • Work hard to reduce unconscious bias
  • Challenge hiring briefs