Behind the Scenes of Sky's Women in Leadership initiative

  • by Bella Vuillermoz, Director for Women in Leadership, Sky
  • Sep 08, 2015

In my new role as Director of Women in Leadership for Sky, building a business case hasn’t been high on my agenda.  Why not?  Because the business buys it: we know that diverse teams drive better business performance – we’ve read the research but more importantly, we experience it in the workplace.


The link between diversity and success is well documented; a 2015 study by McKinsey found that UK companies with 10% higher gender and racial diversity in their management teams have a 6% higher profit before tax. They make better decisions and innovate faster.


That’s why we’re committed to building a gender balanced work force as part of our talent strategy. It makes us better at anticipating and delivering against the needs of our customer base; we have a broader set of perspectives around the table when making decisions, giving us access to a wider range of ideas and perspectives; and because, frankly, if we weren’t taking a balanced view , we’d be missing out on a whole host of talent, both within and out of the organisation.

Today, over a third of our top 500 leaders are women – not half bad, but not half either.  We want to go further by supercharging Sky’s talent and attracting great external talent. Over time, we want to move the gender balance to just that: a 50/50 split.

To do this, we’re taking a long term view.  This isn’t something that we’re going to be able to achieve overnight, and nor should we try.  If we just wanted to hit the number, that would be relatively straightforward, but if we want to drive business performance through this programme, that’s harder.  We’re most definitely in the latter camp: after all, we’re not in the business of diversity; we’re interested in how diversity can drive performance.  To put it bluntly, it’s not about employing and promoting more women, it’s about ensuring we’re creating a strong pool, a stronger pipeline and the strongest candidates for roles.

This isn’t something owned by me, despite my rather flashy title.  It can’t be.  To sustain this change, the business as a whole has to believe in it, own it, and push it through.  Our Group CEO, Jeremy Darroch, is leading from the top, with the programme itself driven by Execs and their senior teams.  My role, working closely with our People team, is to encourage, enable and support. This is part of our DNA, it’s about how we do business – it absolutely needs to be embedded.

We’re focussing on improving how we do business in terms of attracting, retaining and progressing the very best talent. In order to achieve this we are super-charging our existing top female talent through enabling, empowering and supporting them.

Following internal findings that senior women wanted more vertical network support and help to eradicate self-limiting beliefs, we are enabling our best women to go further, faster through the Women in Leadership Sponsorship & Development Programme.  This 12 month programme provides our participants with a sponsor who advocates for them around the business, helping them to identify and land new opportunities; alongside development sessions around self-belief and knowledge sessions on strategy and finance. Our pilot programme in our Customer Service Group has worked well and as a result we are now extending it across new areas of the business.  Around 40 women are taking part now, and we expect this to reach over 100 by next year.

We’re also looking at how we can better empower our employees to work flexibly to get the job done and ensuring  we are supporting our people with the right frameworks to support key life stages such as our new shared parental leave scheme. Sky’s shared parental leave scheme gives both parents more flexibility in how to share the care of their child in the first year. Parents choose how they wish to split their leave; both can be off work at the same time or at different times.

In order to ensure we are attracting the best talent into Sky, we are committed to balanced shortlists for vacancies within our top 500.  This is all about levelling the playing field: taking the time required to scour the market and find the very best talent for the role, the team and the business. It’s not easy to do, particularly in areas where there are serious supply issues, but it’s a crucial part of the mix.  We’re also shifting how we talk to the wider pool ahead of the shortlist: both in terms of the language and content of our recruitment materials and reaching beyond our usual channels – including recent events for women in technology that you may have heard about.  And, of course, we’re rolling out unconscious bias training to our managers.

We know that creating the best performing, balanced leadership team will take time and commitment.  But we also know it’s a no brainer: it generates better ideas, better decision making and better business outcomes.  Why wouldn’t you?

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