22 April 2013
Nationwide Building Society has been recognised as leading the way in gender equality, featuring in the Times Top 50 Employers for Women 2013.
The list is published annually by The Times to identify and celebrate those employers who can demonstrate best practice in relation to their approach to gender equality and diversity. Those organisations making the Top 50 list are selected independently by Opportunity Now under criteria designed to test their consistent commitment to recruitment, retention and progression of females across their workforce.
Keith Astill, Nationwide’s HR Director, commented; “We are extremely proud of this achievement and the evidence it provides, to both potential and existing female employees, of our commitment to creating a female-friendly work environment, directly endorsed by board level sponsorship.
At Nationwide we place great importance on diversity and inclusion, and have a sharp focus on the role that women play, amongst other groups, in helping us to reflect and serve the growing numbers of customers who choose to do business with us. It’s a simple fact that the majority of our staff are women, each hired on their own merit, ability and experience, so for us creating a supportive and progressive environment makes good business sense.”
As a result of this culture, and our focus on promoting a healthy work life balance, more than 80% of our female employees return to work after maternity leave and we have a thriving employee-led Women’s Network, which has a powerful role in informing our future policy, while helping the business to better understand and embrace women’s specific needs.
This award is further endorsement of our commitment to equality already recognised through our Gold Status, top ten ranking from the business-led campaign, Opportunity Now, as well as our Investors in People Gold Standard.
According to the Law Society, in recent years, of the 7,000 – 8,000 solicitors who qualify each year, more have been women than men.
But what is the current business environment that those women face, and are companies interested in developing their female staff into senior positions, or is the glass ceiling still very much in existence?
We spoke to Rachel West, General Counsel, Business, Corporate and Financial Services at Nationwide Building Society for an insight into her experience with the company that has recently been recognised as leading the way in gender equality; featuring in the Times Top 50 Employers for Women list 2013.
Rachel joined Nationwide in 2007, providing legal support and advice on a range of business to business contracts and general commercial legal issues. She was keen to progress into a more managerial position and initially made use of the in house resources available to develop her skills. It was this self-development, she believes, that lead her line manager to recommend her for the Next Generation Leadership Programme, an internal course to support future business leaders, from which she graduated in 2012. She credits the course as a turning point in her personal journey toward realising her potential, and was appointed General Counsel, Business, Corporate and Financial Services shortly afterwards, now managing the legal teams in those areas.
So what lead her down this path? Rachel believes that the fact her divisional director was female had a role to play, both through providing a tangible role model, whose achievements she could aspire to, and through the director herself providing a supportive endorsement at a senior level. “Women are particularly hard on themselves and very self critical of their own performance” she suggests, “but the fact that I could see women in senior roles within my division gave me the drive and motivation to push ahead.”
It was during her time on the leadership programme that she was assigned her first mentor, a senior male at Nationwide, who provided an independent sounding board and often challenged her thinking and approach. She now has a female mentor within the business, as well as being a founder member of the recently-formed Women in Nationwide group, set up to network, support and share useful experiences and resources between women at all levels within the company.
Whilst Rachel’s experience of the supportive and encouraging culture in Nationwide has aided her career development, she recognises that there is still more to be done to ensure gender equality reaches all areas of the business, as well as those more traditionally staffed by women. She believes diversity amongst all teams can both help drive strong performance, and is integral to understanding the needs of staff being managed, and that more companies need to encourage levels of representation at higher levels, where often key business decisions would benefit from a more diverse approach, in order to reflect the needs of the customers they serve.
Notes to editors
- The Top 50 Employers for Women is unranked, and organisations are listed in alphabetical order. The full report and Top 50 Employers for Women can be found here:http://opportunitynow.bitc.org.uk/thetimestop502013list
Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as the second largest savings provider and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.
- Customers can manage their finances in a branch, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 16,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.