Over the past two years, Vector have held their Women in Leadership programme on March 8th to coincide with International Womens’ Day. The programme was designed in partnership with Massey University Professor Sarah Leberman and Sarah Schulz of Capability Group, who are heavily involved in the University’s Women Leadership programmes.
Vector’s goal is to empower women who are in, or aspire to be in, leadership positions and leaders in their field of expertise and the results are already showing. The number of women who are a direct report to their Executive team has increased by 13% last financial year while their Board has increased to a 37.5% female representation.
Vector’s Chief Risk Officer Kate Beddoe, shares with M2woman the power of Vector’s Women in Leadership program.
How does the Women in Leadership (WIL) program at Vector promote equal rights and opportunities for women?
Essentially, the WIL program creates opportunities for our women to shine and gives our women exposure to the most senior leaders within the organisation. In that context, it enables these women to be highly visible and therefore to be considered for new roles, projects or other opportunities within the organisation, thereby creating a pipeline of female talent.
We believe it’s important to give a voice to women – the program is open to all levels, including women who don’t hold traditional leadership titles. We want to identify and grow talent at all levels across the organisation. In terms of specific skills, the program focuses on building confidence, career risk taking, building relationships and improving leadership skills.
Very importantly, the program also provides many opportunities for the participants to increase their profile within our organisation. It pushes the women outside their comfort zone by assigning them to Executive-sponsored projects that are not within their typical skill and experiential sets, teaming them up with colleagues they aren’t used to working with and providing them with exposure to the Executive and the Board. The pressure really comes on when they present their project recommendations to the Executive and the wider Senior Leadership team and many of the recommendations have the potential to have a real positive impact on the organisation.
What motivated you personally to become involved with the program?
Compared to the NZ working population, women are an under represented area of our workforce at Vector. Currently, females make up 33% of our total workforce population, compared to approximately 50% of society. In addition, women at the management leadership levels sits at 26%. That did not sit comfortably with me and I wanted to find a way to accelerate change.
I think it is pretty well recognised now that diversity of thought, opinion and experience is essential to business success. Part of our diversity and inclusion strategy and central to our vision of ‘creating a new energy future’, is to promote diversity of thought. We know that diversity of thought supports greater innovation, customer connectedness and business performance. As a result, women must be a key part of this diversity picture.
I wasn’t convinced that traditional leadership programs created the right environment for women to thrive, share experiences, develop the confidence to put themselves forward and gain the profile associated with our targeted approach.
As the most senior female on our management team, it is my responsibility to ensure that we build a pipeline of female talent and that our women are equipped to compete for all roles within the organisation. This includes removing any obstacles for women so that they can compete fairly.
What do you think could be changed in New Zealand to promote gender equality?
Momentum is really growing around recognising that gender equality is not only the right thing to do, but leads to greater business performance – the dialogue is there and many organisations are starting to make headway. However, there is still an overriding acceptance that gender equality will take time and this can lead to complacency.
Pay equity is an important factor to ensure the work done by women is valued in the same way as work done by men.
Flexible working as well as rethinking traditional job designs, e.g. job sharing, redesigning tasks, both help mitigate the competing pressure associated with balancing career and family obligations.
Challenging remuneration and support frameworks, including additional paid leave, eligibility for performance reviews and promotion whilst on family leave, ensures women who take career breaks to raise family, are not disadvantaged in the medium to longer term.
What is the most fulfilling part of contributing to the Women in Leadership program?
The most fulfilling part is definitely seeing the change in confidence and ambition levels in these women once they have completed the program. It is also really fantastic to see many of my male Executive colleagues take on mentoring roles and personal responsibility for assisting in the career development of these women.
Vector has a diversity policy, how is it implemented internally?
We made sure our policy committed us to achieving measurable objectives around diversity and inclusion. We have to report back to our Board on how we’re tracking, so we’re very serious about honouring this commitment. As well as having anyone who joins Vector complete compulsory training on our policy, our Diversity & Inclusion Council and Diversity & Inclusion Committee plan initiatives and activities to celebrate our culture of diversity and inclusion throughout the year. We’re very proud of having won the Diversity Awards – Tomorrow’s Workforce and Overall Supreme Award, achieved Rainbow Tick certification and we were New Zealand’s first large corporate to be accredited as a Living Wage employer. It’s great to be recognised for the work we’ve done.
How is the idea of inclusion embraced at Vector?
In order to be truly diverse, we know we need to be inclusive, by making sure everyone feels empowered to have an authentic voice at Vector and to be able to bring their wholeselves to work. An example of this is encouraging the formation of representative groups such as the youth network, Rainbow and Maori groups. These groups contribute their viewpoint on projects and lead various activities throughout the business. We’ll also continue to make sure we help provide an even playing field for under-represented groups through our development programs such as Women in Leadership and Growing Pasifika Niu Leaders.