Two inspirational employees, who have been instrumental in founding and progressing Cambridge Assessment's Women in Leadership group, discuss the importance of gender equality within the organisation.
Cambridge Assessment has six active diversity and inclusion groups, which include: BAME, Disability and Neurodiversity, Healthy Mind, LGBT+, Parents and Carers Together, and Women in Leadership.
These staff network groups exist to support diversity and inclusion within our organisation, and to help create a culture where everyone feels valued for who they are and the contribution they make.
Set up by Cambridge Assessment English’s Chloe Shaw in November 2016; Women in Leadership was our first established staff network group. For her work on inclusion and her collaborative leadership style, Chloe deservingly received the ‘Unsung Hero’ accolade at the Women in Education Awards 2018. Cambridge Assessment look forward to sponsoring ‘The Lifetime Achievement Award’ at this year’s Women in Education Awards.
As the Founder of the Women in Leadership Network, Chloe has recently passed on her Chair responsibilities to successor, Ashley Capaldi.
Chloe Shaw, Head of Alliance Management at Cambridge Assessment English
Founder and former Chair of the Women in Leadership Staff Network
Why did you establish the Women in Leadership Network?
I set up the network in 2016 as a staff-led initiative to help support and inspire women to achieve their leadership goals.
Overall, our gender balance is pretty good, but at the time anyone could see that women were not well represented at the highest levels of leadership.
What has the network achieved since its inception?
A lot has changed over the last couple of years, thanks to the work of the network, namely the organisation’s increased desire to create a truly inclusive workplace for staff and a great people-focused CEO.
We have many more female role models in senior leadership roles now and an active programme of network meetings, events and support sessions available to staff.
What’s next for this network?
After two years of leading the network and growing it to more than 400 active members, it was time to take things to the next level. With Ashley as the new Chair, I’m really seeing the benefit of having a communications expert in charge.
Ashley’s been really great at information sharing, stimulating debate and increasing participation from our regional teams and our team in Coventry. I’m also in complete awe of her delegation skills which means she has many hands happily making light work. Hats off to her for taking on the challenge and making it all look so effortless.
Ashley Capaldi, External Communications and Social Media Manager
Chair of the Women in Leadership Staff Network
Why did you want to Chair the Women in Leadership Network?
The group has achieved so much under Chloe’s leadership in two years; developing from an informal, grassroots network into an influential and positive force for change championing policies, training and progression for women in the workplace. I want to build on that.
I was also influenced, and excited by, recent changes in our leadership team with the appointment of three female CEOs in the last year which means there are now more women than men in our leadership team.
Female leaders can play a vital role in clearing a path for all women, but there is still more to do to achieve a truly gender-equal workplace.
How is the group developing under your leadership?
The group now has an expanded remit. Our goal is ‘fair gender representation within Cambridge Assessment’ so it will look at gender equality as a whole. We will support underrepresented groups to build the career they want, provide a safe space for discussions relating to gender balance and representation, and promote role models that encourage gender equality.
What practical activities and projects can staff take part in to support these aims?
The group is made up of members from all over the world, so we make the most of technology and ‘meet’ quarterly via Skype – everyone is welcome. We invite guest speakers to lead panel discussions on an issue which may be affecting gender equality within the organisation.
This quarter we are focussing on gender differences and how we can reduce restrictions on female career progression, as well as looking at our own recruitment process and how this is changing to attract more women to apply for roles at Cambridge Assessment.
We also offer training and encourage staff members to call out and give feedback on bad behaviours and to feel comfortable doing this.
And this year, for International Women’s Day, we ‘followed the sun’ around the world and posted Instagram photos of staff sharing the hashtag #IWD19 starting at our Australia offices and ending on the West Coast of the US.
It was positively received by all staff, men and women alike, and helped to raise awareness of women's rights and promote equal opportunity status in all walks of life.
Ashley also shares her three top tips for establishing a gender equality group within an organisation:
- Firstly, ask yourself why you need the group – look at the make-up of your organisation and see which groups of people need support and representation. Use data and insights to ensure you are addressing the real issues. Be clear about the change you want to see and be open and honest about the purpose of the group.
- Senior leadership buy-in is crucial. Having the support of our corporate board sponsors Fran Woodward, Jill Duffy and Neil Musk has been invaluable in giving the network a voice within key decision-making forums. Neil is an advocate for gender equality and has worked on addressing gender imbalance in the finance industry in a previous role. And Fran and Jill are two of the aforementioned newly(ish) appointed CEOs!
- Finally, be “super-inclusive”. Ensure that staff are aware that it’s open to everyone. Even if members don’t feel personally affected by your group’s concerns at that time, the more people you can educate means more awareness and understanding of gender equality and a greater long-term impact.
Find out more: Diversity and inclusion networks: What are they and why do organisations need them?
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