To celebrate International Women’s Day, Allia wants to shine a light on the challenges that women face in the workplace, how we as an organisation champion female entrepreneurship and ensure that we provide equal opportunities to all our staff. We caught up with Caroline Hyde, CEO and Rachel Coquard, Director of HR at Allia – read how they implement gender balance across the organisation, and support practices and initiatives that support and celebrate diversity.
Around 65% of Allia’s employees are female, which beats the national average of women in the UK workforce (47%) – why do you think that is?
Caroline: In my experience, trying to find meaningful part time positions for senior roles is incredibly difficult. Businesses just don’t consider how much expertise from women they are shutting out by making jobs full time.
I think one of the reasons we have a very strong female workforce is because we create meaningful fractional posts, and we always challenge ourselves on whether the role needs to be full time, or if there are other ways it can be delivered. This means that from the top down you have people that understand the nuances of balancing home and family life and that informs how you go about ensuring there are flexible approaches for all.
Rachel: I also think it’s about having a fair and open recruitment process, making sure that all employees have the same access to opportunities and that continues throughout their time at Allia. While we don’t have to report legally on the gender pay gap, we work from pay ranges and bandings, which means that employees’ pay does not reflect them as an individual, but reflects the job that they are fulfilling.
Caroline, as a successful business woman, have you encountered any hurdles in your career over the years that were linked to gender imbalance?
The only time I felt that my gender worked against me was having children. When you say you’re going on maternity leave, the organisation starts planning for how things work without you, and quite often cuts you out of conversations before you’ve even left. Yes, there are keep in touch days which can be useful, but I’m not sure that many companies are doing enough to look at how you support women returning from maternity. I still think there’s work to be done.
Coming back in to work from maternity leave, your priorities take a shift. For a lot of people, it’s a trigger that they want to do more than just go to work in a job that just pays you a salary; but you’re looking for meaning and purpose in it. That was certainly a driver for me. My job had to resonate with some of things that I’d become really passionate about, such as, with 3 daughters, how do you make sure that there are decent opportunities for women and give them equal access into traditionally male subjects (such as STEM) to help them create the jobs of the future.
If you can be confident of your value and your worth, I think that has to be a way of tackling gender pay issues. I would say that to anybody, male or female – understanding the value that you bring to an organisation and not being prepared to give that away is something really powerful.
What do you think organisations should be doing more of to encourage a diverse workforce?
Caroline: Looking at recruitment processes and the way that people think about jobs. Thinking about how you leverage all of the skill sets that are out there. We need more women at board level positions and we need to give women confidence to take on those roles. Organisations should be challenged to look at not just females on boards, but also diversity in general. A diverse board naturally changes the diversity in the workplace and that can only be seen as an extremely positive thing.
Rachel: At Allia, we are surrounded by start-ups and ventures with female entrepreneurs and founders and staff from a range of nationalities. That is a very inclusive environment. Allia drives this through the cohorts we take on for our venture support programmes, and recruitment within Allia itself.
At Allia, we now are making sure that we have an equal balance of men in our workplace as there are so many women! So we try to make roles as accessible as we can for everyone. We advertise roles as ‘part time up to full time’ so that we can accommodate everyone’s needs and not deter anyone from applying. We encourage applications from all backgrounds and are an equal opportunities employer.
The International Women’s Day 2019 campaign theme is #BalanceforBetter, and is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world. How does Allia contribute to this?
Caroline: We are committed to conducting ourselves in a gender inclusive way in everything we do. We want to give a voice to underrepresented entrepreneurs and make sure that we are giving everybody a platform. Internally, we take steps such as parity pledges to ensure that everyone gets heard. I think it’s important to call out other organisations and support them to adopt those things into their own practices too. It’s about shining a light on what we do well to promote better practices and lending our voice and support to initiatives such as International Women’s Day.