Equality, diversity & inclusion: doing what's right for our colleagues

by Leeds Building Society

We’ve got an important ambition here at Leeds Building Society – to have an inclusive culture which enables our colleagues with a diverse range of skills, experiences, backgrounds and opinions to flourish, without barriers.

In 2017, the Society was among the first to sign the HM Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter. We publish gender diversity targets and report on our progress every year.

On the basis of this, we wanted to share a bit more about what we’ve been doing to work towards our ambition. There’s been some real progress over the past couple of years.

2018 highlights

We’ve made important headway on the targets we set ourselves in 2017, as part of our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy:

  • 33% female representation at Board level by 2021 - currently at 27%
  • 33% female representation in top 3 levels of management (excluding Board) by 2021 - on track, currently at 33%

Achieving the ‘Leaders in Diversity’ accreditation from the National Centre for Diversity is also a real testament to the progress we’ve made so far. We were the first financial services organisation to ever achieve this – so it’s really something to be proud of.

We also won two awards at the National Centre for Diversity Grand Awards, in the categories of ‘Large Business of the Year’ and ‘Financial Services Company of the Year’.

In line with our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, we’ve made progress in the area of mental health inclusion and awareness. Since 2018, we've trained 42 colleagues as Mental Health First Aiders, accredited by MHFA England, and over 150 of our colleagues and managers have attended in house mental health awareness sessions. We've also taken this a step further, by providing Mental Health First Aider training, free of charge, to other building societies.

Digging into the detail…

As well as looking back on our achievements, it’s important to look to the future to keep the momentum going. There’s a lot more we want to do to make sure we truly achieve our ambition.

So what else have we been doing to drive progress?

  • We’ve made sure gender diversity has Board level sponsorship through Karen Wint, our Chief Operating Officer. Karen also sponsors our colleague-led Gender Diversity Forum.
  • We’ll continue to be an inclusive employer across all our sites - we have two UK based Contact Centres, one in Newcastle and one in Leeds. In both centres, colleagues have a diverse range of skills, experiences and backgrounds which adds value for our customers and business.
  • In addition to our Gender Diversity Forum, we have a Mental Health Forum and have launched Wellbeing and Diversity Hubs on our internal colleague site.
  • We’ve committed to only work with recruitment agencies who provide gender balanced shortlists for our leadership roles. We’ve also introduced measures to ensure that our recruitment adverts and selection processes are free from gender bias.
  • We provide unconscious bias training to all colleagues.
  • We are active participants in the Women Ahead mentoring programme – Women Ahead are a social enterprise that develops women in sport and business. Through the programme, we have many opportunities for women in senior roles to be mentored, and to provide mentoring to women in other organisations.
  • All our senior leadership team have been involved in building our diversity action plans.

How do we keep the momentum going?

We’ve committed to continue promoting diversity through education and engagement. For example, we were pleased to sponsor six colleagues to attend a unique Women Ahead event in London, to recognise International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8 March 2019.

The event saw individuals and organisations come together to learn, inspire and connect on this year’s IWD theme – ‘Balance for Better’. The event included stories from world-class leaders, athletes and subject matter experts, with discussions on subjects, including the gender pay gap and shared parental leave. In line with the theme of balance, we sent three men and three women colleagues to represent the Society and we’ll be making the content available to all colleagues across our sites and in our branch locations.  Our representatives have brought back some fantastic insight to share with us.

Our senior leadership team remain committed to diversity and inclusion. They will continue to support our Gender and Mental Health Forums along with the delivery of key initiatives in line with our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.

It’s essential we get this right not only for our colleagues, but because a diverse, valued and respected workforce creates a better experience for our members. We’ll keep you posted as things progress!