How to bring about change

We have seen great progress over the last decade when it comes to representation of women in leadership positions throughout UK business, however we recognise there is still more to do.

This helpful guide shows some of the initiatives and ways of working that companies making most progress have implemented to improve their gender diversity.

Recommended Changes

  1. Create inclusive culture Read now

  2. Set public targets Read now

  3. Develop women’s talent pipeline Read now
  4. Focus on retention and then recruitment Read now
  5. Set up mentor/sponsorship programmes Read now
  6. Review parental leave policies Read now
  7. Review ways of working Read now
  8. Create diversity networks Read now
How To Culture

Create inclusive culture

What does this mean in practice?

  • Board and Executive teams must own the diversity challenge. This should be transparent and communicated throughout the organisation via culture, strategy and practices.
  • Board and Executives teams must create tangible actions to ensure culture at every level becomes as inclusive as possible.
  • All colleagues should understand and sign up to inclusive values and behaviours as set our in the company strategy.


An inclusive culture encourages colleagues to be their authentic selves and perform to the best of their ability. If true commitment to a diverse culture from the top of the organisation is transparent, that will have a ripple effect on the whole organisation. Diversity and culture need to be part of the strategy for the organisation to be on board and deliver on strategic priorities. A diverse & inclusive culture expands the pool of innovative ideas, which creates new avenues of commercialisation and inclusive growth.

How To Public

Set public targets

What does this mean in practice?

  • Set public targets of women in senior leadership that your company wants to achieve by a specified date. These targets should be ambitious to achieve gender balance and drive real change.
  • Track data internally to review progress and drive change – without data change is difficult to quantify


Having public commitments shows your company’s appetite towards improving gender balance and will provide evidence to support changing policies & practices to enable these targets to be achieved.

How To Pipeline

Develop women’s talent pipeline

What does this mean in practice?

  • Focus on retaining and promoting talented senior women within the organisation.
  • Provide opportunities to broaden and develop talented women’s skills internally.
  • Nurture the talent pipeline and review attrition rates, challenging where these are high.
  • Review opportunities to create Shadow Boards / Board Apprenticeship programmes.
  • Encourage women and men to take up NED positions in early careers e.g. charity / school governors.


Having a diverse pipeline will ensure that there is a clear pool of strong women candidates ready to progress into the most senior roles. By developing a diverse pipeline and showing progression within the organisation, it will attract candidates and encourage women to remain and progress internally which could result in lower attrition.

How To Recruitment

Focus on retention and then recruitment

What does this mean in practice?

  • Focus on retaining and promoting talented senior women within the organisation.
  • Provide opportunities to broaden and develop talented women’s skills internally.
  • Create job descriptions that are written in an inclusive way.
  • For any new appointment, a minimum criteria for diversity (gender, ethnicity etc.) should be set for the interview shortlist. Where this is not met, an explanation for why should be provided.
  • Unconscious bias training should be rolled out to all hiring managers at all grades.
  • Review use of executive search firms, to check they are committed to gender diversity.


By retaining talented women colleagues, this keeps the talent within the organisation and provides consistency and motivation. It reduces the time and resource required to recruit external candidates.

Furthermore, as men still get appointed to senior leadership positions at twice the rate of women, retaining and promoting  strong talented women will provide greater opportunity for women to secure senior roles.

When external recruitment is required, reviewing the recruitment processes and procedures with a view on diversity will put greater emphasis on attracting and recruiting colleagues from different backgrounds which will ultimately lead to a more diverse workforce and better business outcomes.

How To Mentor

Set up mentor/sponsorship programmes

What does this mean in practice?

  • Set up mentoring or sponsorship programmes targeted at women.
  • Create database of willing senior leaders who are committed to mentoring and /or sponsoring women with their careers.
  • Be thoughtful about the mentoring pairings.
  • Consider reverse mentoring to ensure feedback is being received at all levels of the organisation.


Research shows that women are less likely to have a sponsor and therefore less likely to achieve their full potential. By having dedicated mentor and sponsorship programmes, talented women will have additional support and guidance to achieve their next step. There are also the benefits of reverse mentoring within these relationships, allowing mentors to understand the challenges women face, especially if a mentor / sponsor is a man. Evidence in some organisations showed women on the sponsorship programmes have achieved a promotion rate 5 times greater than the average for women’s progression.

How To Parental

Review parental leave policies

What does this mean in practice?

  • Review parental leave policies to ensure these are fair, flexible and transparent.
  • Provide opportunities to keep in touch with parents when on parental leave
  • Create dedicated support for parents who have been out of work for a long time e.g. returners to work programmes
  • Provide coaching before, during & after parental leave.


Reviewing parental leave policies can encourage greater equality when it comes to sharing childcare. This has the benefits of allowing both parents quality time to bond with their children, whilst also supporting women to not be out of work for longer periods of time in comparison to men.

On return to work, parents may need additional support and creating dedicated returners programmes can support the transition and embraced talented individuals.

How To Flexible

Review ways of working

What does this mean in practice?

  • Empower colleagues to work flexibly by reviewing ways of working policies and procedures, including standard working times, working location and opportunities to provide hybrid working.
  • Where possible, colleagues should have the right to request flexible working.
  • Set up behavioural experiments to test new and innovative ways of working


The pandemic has proven that flexible working is achievable. Women are disproportionately affected by inflexible working arrangements due to bearing most of the caring responsibilities. Having flexible working practices allows women to juggle their responsibilities with work and empowers colleagues to be trusted to get the job done outside of traditional 9-5 working patterns. This allows talented individuals to balance their home and work lives and provide productive output.

How To Networks

Create diversity networks

What does this mean in practice?

  • Set up women’s network as a central place for women to connect, form extended networks and support each other.
  • Host roundtable discussions and events on key issues women face within the workplace to educate all colleagues.
  • Highlight future opportunities and tips for women to succeed.


Diversity networks allow colleagues to share experiences and support each other in their careers. They are an opportunity to learn from colleagues and have dedicated support to discuss key topics and challenges of interest.