Interview with Lesley Sewell: Making it happen

Lesley Sewell image

“It’s the practical things – the brand, being able to create a workplace etc. – that supports young people, young women who might be looking for career breaks, and create a culture that’s inclusive, the unconscious bias training. It all helps.”

International Women’s Day 2015 saw IRG host an event exploring this year’s two main themes: ‘Making It Happen’ and ‘Stepping Up Together’. The event was a huge success and saw us commit even further towards our diversity agenda.

Our guest speakers participated in a debate, giving their views on how to ‘step up the game’, demonstrating the importance and benefits a diverse and balanced workforce can bring.

We asked Lesley Sewell, CIO and Operations Director at the Post Office about how companies encourage and work towards greater diversity in the workplace.

Do you feel that the business case for diversity at work still warrants further debate for your firm?

“In essence, yes. At this stage, the Post Office currently use a corporate scorecard for diversity. At the moment the company does have a good mix at the lower-levels, and at the senior-end there is definitely gender balance in terms of representation. It is at the Manager-level where the staff is predominantly made up of white males.

“When the Post Office uses a headhunter it will always ask for a diverse shortlist. The Post Office is certainly on a journey to improve its diversity agenda. This year it has been added to the Top 50 FT companies to work for if you are a woman.

“The statistics from both external and our own research demonstrate that having a more diverse workforce drives engagement and profit. The elimination of ‘unconscious bias’ is required to ensure diversity targets are met. Key to this is training for all staff involved in the recruitment and interview process.”

In your opinion, what do you feel is the best way in which companies can attract and retain diverse candidates?

“Advertising that the Post Office have recently been voted a TOP 50 Company to work for by the FT for women assists us in attracting a diverse range of candidates. I have recently been voted one of the Top 25 Women in IT, and is a great accolade for both myself and the Post Office. It demonstrates to women that the company is somewhere they can grow and develop their skill sets.

“It’s the practical things – the brand, being able to create a workplace etc. – that supports young people, young women who might be looking for career breaks, and create a culture that’s inclusive, the unconscious bias training. It all helps.”

What are your views on positive discrimination?

“From a recruitment perspective you should always hire the best person for the job. I have never had to make this kind of decision. A panel always helps, as you need to have a diverse group of people to interview to stop positive discrimination. Additionally, seeking external counsel can be of great benefit.”

Do you feel that companies should be transparent in their efforts to create gender balance?

“Yes.

“It is very important to create gender balance as it drives the right behaviours. If you are looking to recruit then it is a challenge, certainly in the IT space. 17% of the IT workforce are women, which is extremely low. Only 7% of CIOs are women. How do you create gender balance when the pool of women is so small?.

“This is a challenge for head-hunters, but without even asking the Search Firms, they know that a shortlist needs to be as diverse as possible. The head-hunter will take the lead in this instance and shouldn’t need to be asked.

I feel that the amount of women applying for previously male-dominated roles will increase over time – especially in the legal and manufacturing industries, which tend to lag behind in terms of gender balance.”

Find out more about IRG and International Women’s Day here.

http://corporate.postoffice.co.uk/our-leadership