by Sonya Veerasamy, Vice-President of Women in Transport
We were delighted to join HS2 for the external launch of its Gender Balance Staff Network hosted at the National College for High Speed Rail in Birmingham on 20 February 2018.
HS2 Ltd was established in 2009 and now has over 1,500 staff. The Gender Balance Staff Network is co-chaired by Marny Moruzzi and Bridget Jackson who, having launched the Network to HS2 staff in both London and Birmingham, decided to reach out to the wider community to share best practice and to build a mutually supportive network of contacts within the communities HS2 serves.
The launch, opened by HS2 Executive Sponsor, Nicole Geoghegan, included a panel of speakers who shared practical learning centred on the latest guidance on gender balance, career development and networking.
Our president, Katie Hulland, gave a brief overview of Women in Transport and talked about our ambition to continue to expand our network and support regional initiatives.
Manon Bradley gave us an insight into her experience of leading the Gender Balance Initiative at the Major Projects Association (MPA). She shared the findings of a study recently carried out by the MPA to determine where there is evidence that gender balance programmes and initiatives have been successful. Usually the report would be available just to MPA members but you can read more here. It was particularly interesting to hear how the issue of diversity has moved up the agenda and gained traction over the years. The MPA provides a number of free resources and research on gender balance which are available to download at: www.majorprojects.org
Focusing on career development, Emma Nicholls from Your Red Dress shared her top four tips:
- Create a career vision statement
- Gather your personal boardroom
- Watch out for designer labels (tiara syndrome – or doing all the work while someone else gets promoted)
- Create your USP and personal brand.
Finally, Iain Smith from Network for Skills shared his tips, in the most engaging and energising manner, on how to successfully navigate the five essential stages of networking.
The panel was asked how we can get more men actively involved in gender balance initiatives. Suggestions included networking, use of inclusive language, communication, reciprocal mentoring schemes, creating competition and engaging with men who have daughters.
An interesting discussion followed about whether there is a burning platform driving the diversity agenda for business which resulted in a proposition from the audience: What if we thought about diversity as the solution to the problem of fighting for the same ever-diminishing pool of talent? Something has to change and a more diverse workforce would be a solution - isn’t that our burning platform?
The final discussion was around the value of diverse teams with a member of the audience sharing his positive experience of working in a team where age, gender, race and differences in approach were equally represented.
The gender balance network is keen to collaborate with local businesses and other gender networks, please email GenderBalanceNetwork@hs2.org.uk if you would like to find out more