#InternationalWomensDay: Tips For A More Inclusive Workplace

Today marks International Women’s Day, a global day to ‘celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women’. Started in 1909 by the Socialist Party of America, this movement has set out an actionable pledge to drive change.

The pledge is a great framework for any organisation that wants to build a supportive environment for women. At Unruly we have built an inclusive and diverse environment, 48% of Unrulies are female.  Below are some examples of the practices we’ve adopted and in the spirit of #sharingthelove, we’d love to hear what you’ve been doing too!

1. Create an environment for learning

We’re committed to learning at Unruly. In such a fast-paced industry, we need to keep ahead of the curve. But education is also one of the best ways to help women progress their careers and achieve their ambitions.

That’s one of the reasons why our co-founder Sarah Wood set up Unrulyversity in 2010 when the business was growing rapidly and she wanted passionate interns to scale up to be the managers of tomorrow.

Run by leading academics, sessions include ‘Presenting with Impact’, ‘Great Coaching’ and ‘Influencing, Negotiating and Persuading’. Managers can also ask for a training on specific subjects and make sure their teams get the training that will make a difference on day one. 

We also launched a pop-up University with City University three years ago, an epic opportunity for the broader start-up community, students and our own Unrulies to learn from academics and entrepreneurs. This semester’s programme reads like master-class in marketing – a great opportunity for our own Marketing Team to learn from leaders in their field.

We also actively encourage self-learning! We have a library stacked with the latest ground-breaking research, latest periodicals, and Unrulies can request new books. Personally, I can’t sit still for 2 minutes, so I used my maternity leave to continue with my career progression. Unruly kindly funded an investor relations course, which I had been wanting to do for a couple of years but never had the time to complete.

It’s important that as part of learning and development we close the #confidencegap. At our last Marketing Summit we spent an entire afternoon on self-reflection, which culminated in a session on Strengths Finder, a revolutionary book which encourages people to focus on their strengths rather than improving areas of weakness. By nurturing innate strengths, people can grow in confidence while acquiring skills along the way.

2. Develop a gender-balanced organisation

Campaign and the IPA released ground-breaking research on diversity across Adland in January, setting the target for 40% of the most senior level of ad agencies to be female by 2020. Currently, a third (30.5 per cent) of those whose job title is chair, chief executive or managing director are female. This provides much-needed visibility to the diversity issue across Adland.

The government has also been making incredible progress in this field. The Davies report has brought about sweeping changes to FTSE boards and shared parental leave has challenged traditional roles.

At Unruly, 48% of our global workforce are female, 46% of our people managers are female and 44% of our board are women. Our Exec Team is spearheaded by strong female leaders who are role models for more junior team members. By having a gender-balanced organisation we can make sure that people feel valued and we welcome different points of view. 

We’re strong believers that the best teams are diverse teams – male and female, young and old –  with a range of personal and professional backgrounds.  A diverse team, with people of different ages and backgrounds, will be a more innovative and successful team, and that’s good news for our clients too!

It’s been proven that with women in the exec suite, Fortune 500 companies are more profitable businesses. A 2013 report from the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology also observed that gender and ethnic diversity in a workplace strengthens decision-making, and diverse teams encourage innovation. A lack of diversity in business impacts the bottom line and creativity. 

There’s a virtuous circle at play here – when you have a gender-balanced organisation, it becomes a top priority to ensure that policies are built out to support women and that the company culture supports the policies on the ground.

3. Design an inclusive, flexible culture

People now work around the clock on their mobiles and 9-5 just doesn’t exist anymore. Unruly has built out an inclusive, flexible culture to help mums and dads. I’m in work most days at 8.30am, which allows me to help support our APAC Team in their working hours and get through a solid chunk of work before most people’s working days begin.

However, I do leave at 5pm on the dot two days a week to collect my son from nursery. That means I get to spend a couple of hours with him before he has a bath, and bed and then I can hop back on my emails once I’ve had dinner.

Working from home one day a week always enables me to start work at 7.30am and put the washing on in my tea break! And it’s not just Shoreditch scale-ups that do this. My husband works in the treasury of a retail bank as a corporate lawyer, and he shares the nursery pick-ups with me.

I was also lucky that Unruly supported me with a flexible return-to-work plan when I came back from maternity leave, increasing my return to work by one day a month over the course of a quarter. That meant  I could get used to the commute and the brain power needed for a working day and that my son could settle into nursery gradually rather than going straight to 5 days a week.

We also believe in work-life integration at Unruly. When Sarah rang me to tell me Unruly was being acquired when I was on mat leave, one of my first thoughts was I CANNOT miss this moment!

It was an amazing accomplishment for the business and a moment I’d been waiting my entire career for. I immediately told her that I could come into the office and help. I spent my Keeping In Touch days helping out with the acquisition comms and when the acquisition was officially announced, I brought Alex into the office for the celebrations, where he was a real hit with the News Corp team!