Five minutes with: Sharon Murray, Head of Culture & Inclusion at Virgin Media

Five minutes with: Sharon Murray, Head of Culture & Inclusion at Virgin Media

Sharon Murray, Head of Culture & Inclusion at Virgin Media, discusses how Virgin Media hopes to achieve a gender-balanced workforce.

How has Virgin Media increased the number of females in senior roles?

Over the past two years we have been working towards the goal of achieving a balanced workforce. Accepting the status quo is not how we do things at Virgin Media.

We have made three positive steps.

Firstly, we have a CEO who is passionate about why gender balance is a ‘no-brainer’ and uses every opportunity to challenge and encourage his leadership teams to do more to support this ambition.

Secondly, we have announced that we want 40% of senior positions held by women at Virgin Media by 2018. Our executive team are continuing to review the gender balance in their respective business areas to achieve this goal.

Thirdly, it’s not just about numbers – it’s about encouraging and recognising talent across the board. A great example of this has been in our finance function where at the end of 2014 only 21% of our leadership population were female, despite the management pipeline being almost 50:50. By acting on this and readdressing the balance, we are reviewing the way we approach career development and how this could work differently to enable female leaders to contribute and succeed as much as their male counterparts. This has already allowed us to achieve an impressive ten per cent increase (to 31% female*) in senior positions held by women at Virgin Media in the past 18 months.  

*specifically in finance

What can other businesses learn from this programme?

There is no quick-fix for this issue. It requires a conscious shift in focus, culture and thinking from the top-down. Increasing diversity is more than just about numbers; it is more about culture and ways of working.  

What do you hope the future brings in terms of diversity and inclusion?

We approached our senior management about diversity and gender 18 months ago. This has very quickly evolved into far broader engagement around inclusive culture and a growing awareness of all areas of diversity. 

I’m really delighted to be involved in a variety of activities working with colleagues from across the business, including bringing hundreds of LGBT colleagues together to take part in various Pride activities.

We are continuing to discuss and review how we can better support our employees who are living and working with disabilities, celebrating our cultural diversity through education and events around key festivals such as Eid, Diwali and much more. 

Our overarching sustainability inclusion goal is to ‘nurture an engaged workforce who represent the diversity of our customers and communities’. We believe that this is a simple but ambitious statement which perfectly sums up our forward-thinking approach to this topic.

‘Diversity’ has always been - and I think will continue to be - a potentially polarising topic not only at work but in wider society. However, if we continue to approach this with an inclusive mindset, I am confident we will reach our ambitions and become an even better place to work and employer of choice in the process.

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