International Women's Day reminds us all how far the world has come in terms of gender parity, and how far we still must go.   

With International Women’s Day, March 8th 2020, Kerry Saes, Director at Charterhouse, interviewed the Diversity Sourcing Lead at NBN Jane Bithell. 
We want to recognise and share the achievements and commitments that NBN embrace around diversity in the workplace.

Tell me about your remit at NBN?

As you know NBN is committed to an inclusive, flexible and supportive workplace. We actively seek to build a diverse workforce, and provide an environment in which all our people, regardless of gender, cultural background, LGBTI status, age, accessibility needs or as someone who identifies as our First Nation peoples have fair opportunity to reach their career aspirations and potential.  

We ensure that we focus on championing our diversity at NBN through a number of well-supported affinity groups, networks and events. We recognise too that the true value of diversity (the richness of ideas and approaches) is only truly unlocked through fostering inclusion; a workplace in which everyone feels respected, valued and a sense of belonging. 

My remit focuses on gender diversity, which, as a mother of two little girls is very close to my heart.  I love my job and consider myself very lucky to have this opportunity to make a difference for talented women looking to progress their careers. I work across multiple teams including Talent Acquisition and our Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) function. NBN's D&I team create programmes and policies to support a diverse and inclusive environment, and our Talent Acquisition team are passionate about attracting the best diverse talent into the business. Together we ensure we are doing everything possible to have diverse candidates on our shortlists and interview panels.  I actively source and recruit executive level roles across the enterprise. In recruitment, timing is a big factor, so I actively seek to build relationships with external talent keen to work for NBN.  Externally, I work with a number of D&I specialists such as Work180 and Puffling, with whom we have developed great relationships to help us in accessing great diverse talent.


Do you feel you are making progress? 

Absolutely.  With a concerted focus on improving diversity at NBN, we have moved the dial considerably over the last few years to 32% female representation in our management ranks.  This is a huge achievement and has been the result of contribution from many people at NBN. Our Executives are 100% behind the drive to continue to ensure that we increase this representation further and it will remain an active focus for us, and for me in my role. Of course, best of all is we have recruited some amazing female talent as part of our journey. 

What are you & the team most proud of over the past 2 years? 

Moving the dial to circa 32% women in leadership now, and seeing how that female talent has added positively to our workforce. For me personally being able to attract some incredible people to NBN and watching them flourish professionally and personally has been very rewarding.

Talk to me about the senior leaders in the business, how are they supporting the company initiatives?

Diversity and inclusion is everyone’s responsibility at NBN.  Our senior leaders are very supportive of our programmes. They are happy to consider flexible working and discuss it at the interview stage, knowing we can then attract and retain some of the best talent in the market. It’s a win, win for everyone. Our Executive are visible proponents of D&I too; each of our affinity groups has an Exec Sponsor and the value of D&I is something that is often referenced in their communications.  

There’s a term in the field “diversity fatigue” – do you ever encounter it at NBN? 

I think Diversity fatigue refers to a lot of talk and no action.  There is a lot of action and effort at NBN to move the dial and ensure we have an inclusive culture where everyone feels safe to bring their whole selves to work. It comes down to the commitment being genuine, and to the majority of your workforce seeing the value in it. I think we have that at NBN. 

What do you see as being the biggest obstacle to D&I progress at NBN? 

I’ll speak to the recruitment and attraction aspects of this as that’s my space. As I mentioned earlier recruitment is largely about timing.  The market place is extremely competitive especially in areas like data science and cybersecurity. NBN is far from being alone in wanting to strive hard to attract the best talent out there (which includes diverse talent).  Those roles are very hard to fill so we must also work hard to retain the talent we have recruited, and NBN has a lot of measures in place (including development programs) to ensure that the environment is one of opportunity to thrive for the women we bring into the business.

Obviously NBN is an enormous business. What advice would you give smaller businesses on how to move the needle on D&I? 

This is a complex issue with many factors to be taken into account.  I think the business culture needs to be inclusive and supportive. Flexibility is a huge thing from my observation. Leaders or hiring managers must be open to supporting flexible work practices where appropriate; there are so many bright intelligent people looking to re-enter the workforce that are unable to do so owing to a distinct lack of flexible opportunities.  It’s not just about reduced hours for return to work parents either. People work flexibly for a variety of reasons whether its caring for family members, taking part in sport or further education – this shouldn’t be about the worthiness of the reason – we all have personal as well as professional commitments to balance. 

Thank you for your time Jane, we look forward to being part of the amazing work that is ongoing at NBN around diversity.