Sue Cooper scoops WISE Champion Award

Sue Cooper, our Non-Exec Director has won the WISE (Women in to Science and Engineering) Champion Award.

Sue joined Skills 4 as a Non-Exec following a long and successful career at Atkins. As the HR Director for UK and Europe, she lead policies and practices which supported the recruitment and retention of female engineers.

Prior to retiring from Atkins, after more than 20 years with the design, engineering and project management consultancy, Sue was instrumental in establishing a number of gender balance initiatives in the UK business.

Implementing these plans has seen a reduction in female resignations from 25% to 19% in 2013. Atkins has also increased the percentage of female graduates in 2013’s intake from 27% to 30%, has increased female employees in the UK by 1% plus the number of senior females by 1% all within a year.

Sue’s top tips for success:

Promote flexible working as something that employees can openly request without fear that their career will be adversely affected. This can be achieved through the language used in communications to employees on this matter. It doesn’t mean every request will be granted but the positive impact of being positive about flexible working will bring new female recruits or avoid resignations – even amongst women who will never want flexible working.

Plan to deliver some Career Development training for Women – this can begin on a relatively small scale and grow through success of programmes delivered and influencing business heads of the value these bring. There is external evidence of the success of such women’s programmes. Sometimes there is government funding for such training.

Plan to deliver some unconscious bias awareness training for senior management. This need not be expensive – start with a 2-hour session at a Board meeting – this can easily result in a desire to roll out more widely and be highly impactful.

Improve internal communication by raising the profile of some of the women in the organisation and improving the language used in staff notices and newsletters to make them more inclusive and readable for all. Members of the GBFG can drive this, working with their Business Heads.

Review your available statistical information on numbers of women at each grade compared with men and track whether any improvements arise once some of the actions have been implemented. Are female resignations dropping; are more women being promoted etc.

Interview all those females who resign from the organisation and note any barriers they highlight and then take action to address these.

Look at the recruitment process. Is the language in job descriptions attractive to all? Whilst it may be impracticable to have a female at all interviews, set a level at which all female candidates should expect one of the interview panel to be female eg mid-senior level.

Get the marketing and communications team on board – they can help with promoting the actions that the GB Improvement Plan is achieving.

Keep it high profile – report regularly to the Board on progress – highlighting even the smallest improvements and celebrating them – this will keep momentum going.

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

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