Practical Support Workshops: Summary

Practical Support Workshops: Summary


POWERful Women Annual Conference 2020


The afternoon of POWERful Women’s Annual Conference on 1st October was devoted to interactive workshops for sharing and learning good I&D practice from experts in the field. Delegates – mostly I&D leads from the top UK energy companies – were able to choose one session having seen a taster video for each.  Notes, slides and even event re-runs are being made available during October and November as there was a great deal of interest in the topics and many said they found it hard to choose!  




 WORKSHOP 1: was led by Peter Duff, former head of D&I for BP (EMEA), and covered the subject of “Engaging Men – the biggest challenge in D&I”.   


Peter’s top tips and suggested tools were: 

  • Understand that people, particularly men, can find this a difficult agenda to engage with so give them clarity on their role. 
  • Make space for private discussion of the issues, to help people ask questions in a safe, non-judgemental environment. 
  • Focus your efforts on the middle 50% who either recognise the issue or can be encouraged to take an interest, as these are the ones who will shift social and cultural norms and bring along the rest. Don’t worry too much about the nay-sayers, there will always be some and your time is better spent with those you can influence immediately. 
  • Give male colleagues personas to adopt to build empathy – ask them to put themselves in the shoes of a junior woman encountering a situation and consider how they would feel and act, thus making it about the situation, not the person. 

Discussion also centred on how we communicate that the drive for D&I is not anti-men but anti-stereotypes and systemic discrimination; how we change perceptions that women get “special treatment” for example, around childcare; and how we can break out of the boxes we are all still trying to fit into. 




WORKSHOP 2: was led by Bhavesh Ganesh, ER/IR Manager at Shell UK, and was called “Flexible Working is more than working home – a practical toolkit to encourage greater flexibility”. 


The delegates found the workshop helpful in providing ideas and a toolkit to start thinking about how to introduce flexible working into their organisation. Bhavesh demonstrated a complete system for flexible working across a global company that has many different job types and scenarios, speaking honestly about his experiences and challenges and sharing what has been successful.  There was also discussion around how companies are managing during Covid-19 and how they go forward afterwards.  


The main tips Bhavesh provided were: 

  • Relay the benefits of flexible working – staff retention and attracting top talent – to the leadership team.
  • Listen to your staff – find out what they want and need and are currently dissatisfied with. 
  • Carry out a company diagnosis to establish the main issues and barriers and refresh policies if necessary. 
  • Create a simple approach to define flexible working (location, hours & time – not just working from home) 
  • Role-modelling, particularly at senior level, is important in creating behavioural change  
  • To overcome team engagement challenges, use weekly meetings, virtual platforms, and be clear on objectives and outcomes 
  • Empower employees to make their own decisions around flexible working with line managers’ support and create a toolkit they can use to explore their options in a simple, clear way  




WORKSHOP 3: was run by Andy Horne, who leads EDF’s Sustainable Supply Chain Strategy, including D&I.  He is responsible for c£400 million of indirect spend, procurement and senior relationship management and spoke on “Building Diversity in your Supply Chain”.  



Those attending were keen to hear how they could implement similar strategies to EDF’s, to expand their D&I goals and activities beyond just their own companies.   




Andy’s top pieces of advice were:  

  • Ensure the supply chain strategy is aligned with your overall company ambition  
  • Create and document your strategy and create a roadmap to bring it to life – showing where and. how you can influence the supply chain D&I  
  • Ensure your people understand the strategy and make it relevant to them 
  • Understand the data, track it and report on it 
  • Make suppliers aware of what’s expected of them through policy documents and manuals
  • Use internal and external networks and enablers to get the message across, such as chambers of commerce, local communities, etc. 
  • Don’t try and take it all on at once – focus on where you can make the biggest difference.  
  • Celebrate success, share best practice and don’t stop – continue to evolve 

Discussion included how to level the playing field for smaller suppliers and Andy noted that EDF has a light process for them. One success has been with HR partners, who were asked to think differently about their processes in order to recruit more female engineers.  It was also noted that having D&I targets in government sector deals can help drive progress 




WORKSHOP 4: was hosted by Linbert Spencer OBE and Paul Anderson-Walsh, co-founders of the Centre for Inclusive Leadership. They explored “Employee Networks and Intersectionality: how do we converge and drive inclusive company cultures?”  


Their top pieces of advice were: 

  • Make space for employee network members to share stories 
  • Use these stories to explain the rationale and purpose of the group 
  • Ensure the affinity group represents the whole community by making sure that it is diverse. For example, the gender group should not be all white women. 



Delegates considered how the affinity groups can enable business to be better and do better and how collaborations could be made with other groups around shared priorities. The advice was to create a link between the affinity group and the company’s business strategy  





WORKSHOP 5: was run by AKD Solutions titled, “Influencing Inclusion through conversation and play – a takeaway tool to use”.  


The AKD team introduced Equally Yours Board Game, a fun ‘snakes & ladders’ type activity devised to explore diversity and inclusion.    

Playing the game showed how: 

  • Sharing stories opens up a different dimension to diversity and inclusion team-building activities and workshops and ultimately brings better results 
  • Good communication is being mindful of the response you receive to what you say, not just what you say 
  • Changing the dialogue and encouraging staff to be honest and open and reflect on their behaviour in activities like this generates positive results. 

It was also noted that: 

  • Advance preparation is important.  Don’t just confront issues when they come to a head, take a deep look at your workforce, understand you will encounter issues and prepare your people 
  • An activity like this allows a company to pose the question “Is your behaviour aligned to the culture we want to achieve in this organisation?” 

A digital version of the game is available soon. The game can be facilitated for companies, or AKD can work with internal teams so they can present it themselves. 




WORKSHOP 6: was run by Dawn Hurst, CEO at EA Inclusion, on the topic: “Why inclusion is non-negotiable for 2021 and 10 Top Tips for maximum impact” 




Dawn reflected on 2020 and looked at the imperatives for building inclusive strategies in 2021, a non-negotiable for companies because of the business imperative and clear return on investment. She advised that by embedding inclusion first, organisations will find that diversity is the happy output on which to build the right culture where their workforce feels comfortable.  



Dawn’s top strategic tips for 2021 were:  

  • Be honest with what you are doing and where you are at. 
  • Get under the hood first to see what skeletons are in the cupboard and what people want and need. What toxic hot spots are making people leave? 
  • Keep things simple – pick a maximum of 5 objectives, do them really well, and develop and build them over the years.  
  • Measure the impact of your activity – what behaviours need to change? Ask the ‘so what’ questions and invest time and effort into those. 
  • For bigger impact, focus on inclusion and intersectionality rather than single-strand diversity initiatives. 
  • Get senior level accountability. 
  • Globalise strategies to get a more consistent approach in different countries. 
  • Use authentic storytelling across the business as a powerful tool to boost engagement. 
  • Don’t ‘walk on by’ – only 25% of individuals feel comfortable challenging culture. 
  • Futureproof your organisation and don’t get left behind – the landscape is changing and your strategy should tackle current issues and anticipate where you need to be in the future. 




WORKSHOP 7: explored “What does health as a strategic priority look like?” and was run by Cate Murden, Founder of PUSH Mind and Body, and Geoff McDonald, global advocate, campaigner and consultant for Mental Health in the Workplace, Co-founder of Minds@Work and former Global VP of Unliver. 

The discussion centred around how positive mental health is as important as physical health.  Cognitive ability is critical to our performance and so people should be able to ask for help if their illness is mental not just physical.  Covid-19 has democratised mental health as companies are not only concerned for their staff’s safety and physical health but also their mental health. So there’s never been a better time to challenge the stigma around mental health.   


Organisations should redefine performance and make mental health a strategic priority.  Geoff’s advice for companies is: 

  • invest in mental health like they do in physical health – it’s common to invest in gyms 
  • audit their ways of working 
  • look at what needs to change.  


PUSH has provided further useful information in a series of ‘What’s Your Story’ videos for World Mental Health Day: