Betting on women - Beverley Newman, head of people development, William Hill

Written by
Changeboard Team

26 Jun 2014

26 Jun 2014 • by Changeboard Team

About William Hill

About half of all William Hill employees are women – 8,064 to be precise, and half of those again are part-time employees. Our 2,400-strong retail estate naturally lends itself to those seeking part-time employment, and as our hours of business are outside the standard nine to five, it allows women (or men if they wish) the flexibility to be at home with their children and still have a job or career.

It is important to us as a business to create a strong pipeline of future leaders, whether male or female. Due to our strong sports links, our business is naturally male dominated so the challenge lies in ensuring that William Hill attracts employees of both genders. Diversity of thought, style and approach is a key asset for any business and our aim is to optimise our success by employing creative, diverse and effective leaders.

Benefits of balance

Men and women bring different perspectives, processes, and thought to any challenge, task or business. To have a blend of both can only be an asset for any business. We came to the realisation that we had some extremely effective women managers and leaders across the business and could see only benefits in replicating that model. We were also conscious that we needed to ensure as many talented women as possible were encouraged to progress as far as their capability determined. Our chief executive is a strong proponent of women as leaders and during his time in the business he has championed women’s development – as CEO he can ensure that impact is company wide.

Since 2009, there has been a strong focus – spearheaded by HR initiatives – on the development of women within William Hill. Throughout late 2009 and early 2010 we began a concerted effort to build a path for women within our business.

Developing opportunities to inspire women

We started running focus groups in the UK to help gain some understanding of what held some women back from advancing. From this, we designed our internal programme Different Perspectives to inspire women to develop a career with us and give them the motivation and network to help make that happen. More than that, it is inclusive of male senior managers – and their development of women.

Several programmes were developed on the back of research and questioning. The first, a Women Managers Program, is an internal series of courses that we run in collaboration with the Oxford Group, which aims to give women the specific skills and confidence they need to develop. A group of women managers went through the programme together and benefit from being closely networked as a result.

We also teamed up with Aspire, who run conferences, webinars and courses, and we make those available to middle and senior women managers.

In association with the Springboard Company, we also run a personal development programme for women in junior management positions. It aims to encourage them to take responsibility for their own development and realise their full potential.

We have focused our external resourcing to attract more women applicants into senior-level roles and have a much more balanced senior management population as a result of the internal and external talent pipelines.

We actively sourced companies such as The Oxford Group, Aspire and Springboard to help us meet our objectives of developing women managers and we used a conference format to launch our desire to see women progress within the organisation internally. We also developed a website that female colleagues could use to network and be reminded of the key objectives of advancing women leaders. External recruitment opportunities were briefed on an individual basis.

Busting the glass ceiling

We aim to change people’s perceptions about a career at William Hill. It is a progressive, fast-paced environment where people are challenged, rewarded and developed in innovative ways. The organisation is multi-faceted and dynamic and there is no ceiling beyond personal capability – male or female.

One of the most crucial changes we have made is appointing two female non-executive directors in October 2011. They were Georgina Harvey, former MD of the regional division of Trinity Mirror and president of the Newspaper Society, and Imelda Walsh, group HRD at Sainsbury’s from 2004 to 2010.

In addition to board appointments, several internal promotions have seen women rise to prominent positions with the organisation. Nicola Frampton − promoted to group director of customer services in November 2012 – is now the most senior executive woman within the company with responsibility for service delivery for our 2,470 shops, and CS teams in the Philippines, Gibraltar, Bulgaria and the US.

In Kate Miller, we also have one of the industry’s leading spokespeople. Promoted to PR director in May 2012, she is also board director of the British Greyhound Racing Fund and sits on industry panels and working groups representing William Hill. Lyndsay Wright also represents the company on the front line – as director of investor relations, while Mandy Kerr – operations controller and responsible for around 630 shops and 2,000 employees is the most senior woman within our retail business.

We have actively strengthened our senior management population with more women over the past 5 years.

Senior women who take maternity leave return to work – some in a part-time capacity. The past two years have seen our first two female non-executive directors and our first female executive director. We also have promoted our first female retail operations controller − retail has traditionally been male dominated at a senior level and we also have far more women retail area managers than ever before.

Future plans and aspirations

We will continue to provide bespoke development opportunities for women and develop our employer brand to attract more women to senior positions. We will carry on using senior females to act as role models and mentors for emerging leaders and to recognise and reward the rounded leadership behaviours that women so often possess.