International Women’s Day feels particularly pertinent this year.

I am a firm believer in equality and inclusivity. I know all too well what it feels like to have to push harder and challenge stigma to progress and be respected in male dominated sectors.

In 2019 I’d like to see society moving away from conversations about ‘improving’ the situation for women and minority groups to action which will actually bring us closer to real equality.

Our recent Balance for Better roundtable was an opportunity for colleagues from across ForViva to talk, discuss and listen, the outcomes of which we are sharing today.

These conversations have inspired specific actions for us as an organisation which we are pledging to take forward.

We are really proud of the diversity of our organisation and how inclusive it is. But we want to do more. We are especially keen to promote trades as a career option open to everyone.

We want to make sure job opportunities are reaching more people and that they are flexible for different lives and situations. So, we will be reviewing our recruitment approaches and committing to increasing work experience and volunteering opportunities.

This will involve reducing barriers to recruitment. We want to recruit the right people and have a balance for the better from the start. We will strive to make it easier for hard to reach groups to access employment. For example; by going out into communities to promote opportunities and by actively encouraging our teams and their family and friends to champion us as an employer to help us find the right people.

Our social activities and the need to widen these out were a key part of the conversation too, so we will be looking at providing a variety of events and opportunities that welcome everybody – including family members.

We talked about what we can do to improve diversity in certain teams, so we will be looking at what positive action provisions are best placed to address under-representation or disadvantage.

Everyone felt that targets and quotas could be counter-productive. One person said they often felt that as a BME member of staff they had to work harder to prove themselves. We don’t want that. We want to create the best inclusive organisation, where everyone does the right thing and the focus is on doing our jobs well.

The roundtable highlighted the need to do more to promote career paths to young people at the earliest opportunity.

That’s why we’re welcoming local high school pupils – both male and female - into our offices on International Women’s Day to showcase the careers open to them. And we’ll be doing more in terms of engaging with schools and colleges – our future workforce – to inspire them to understand any career they choose is open and accessible.

We want to make sure our future operatives, managers and leaders represent the society we live in.

We want to foster a culture where people feel even more comfortable to speak out and challenge unacceptable behaviour. That’s why we are prioritising putting measures in place to help increase awareness, sensitivity and understanding amongst everyone of what their colleagues could or might find uncomfortable.

As a large employer ForViva has a responsibility to create an inclusive and supportive working environment. But this is much more personal for me. This is something I care deeply about, especially as someone who has rallied against bias, sexism and homophobia throughout my own career.

My vision is that no one ever experiences humiliation, barriers or exclusion ever again, and that our staff are firmly part of the solution. It’s a big ambition but it shouldn’t have to be, and it is more than achievable in our lifetime. That’s why I will do everything in my power to make ForViva the trailblazers in this area. I know many of you will support our ambition to make this happen.

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