Ann Summers & Diageo | How is HR celebrating IWD?

How is HR celebrating IWD?

Each year on March 8, International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated. This day marks a focal point in the movement for women’s rights and is sought to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. With gender parity high up on the HR agenda, this day also calls on employers to strengthen opportunities for women in the workplace.

While some progression has been made, there is still work to be done to increase opportunities for women in the workplace.

So, what are employers doing to celebrate IWD? HR Grapevine spoke to three different HR directors to find out.


The drinks firm Diageo is celebrating IWD across its offices and global sites as part of the business’ commitment to workplace diversity and inclusion. A series of events and panel discussions linked to the firms ‘Each For Equal’ pledge will take place, exploring how each employee can act as an ally for gender equality.

Mairéad Nayager, Chief HR Officer at Diageo told HR Grapevine: “I am very proud that our 28,000 people are celebrating International Women’s Day in our offices and sites worldwide this week, making inspiring #EachForEqual pledges.” Each of the firm’s 28,000-strong workforce will be given the opportunity to declare how they will help accelerate gender equality at work through an #EachforEqual pledge. Diageo’s HR Chief explained: “To me, ‘Each For Equal’ is about each and every one of us using our voice and our influence to create change, challenge stereotypes, fight bias, and broaden perceptions. It’s about taking action – and we’re committed to playing our part at Diageo.”

The drinks firm’s commitment to D&I was made clear last year when Diageo equalised its maternity and paternity leave in the majority of its global offices “so that our people, regardless of gender, can play an equal role in the early days of their child’s life”. Elsewhere, in the last year, Diageo ranked as the top company globally for gender equality by Equileap and made considerable progress towards the goal of having a global leadership team which is 40% women by 2025.

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Ann Summers

Lingerie brand Ann Summers has a variety of internal initiatives to celebrate IWD. Karen Bandoh, People and Talent Director at Ann Summers told HR Grapevine that, internally, the organisation has launched an initiative to find its own “Womann Summers” which aims to recognise female colleagues across numerous areas of the business. “As a business run by women for women, we need to empower one another and shout about our success. So, we have given our colleagues the opportunity to nominate their fellow colleagues. The three winners will champion our brand, passionately live our values (Love Our Vibe) as well as epitomising all things woman.” Winners will receive a mentoring lunch with the organisation’s CEO and CMO.

In addition, Bandoh explained that the lingerie brand has focussed on putting together a female wellbeing strategy that collates advice from clinical specialists and encourages staff to take time out of work to attend female appointments. Elsewhere in the business, Ann Summers has recently created an area at the firm’s HQ called ‘The Space’ which acts as a creative hub for employees to generate ideas and gain mental clarity. “It is a female-focussed space, filled with female inspiration – books, articles, photos etc,” Bandoh added.

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The Landmark London

“The big thing for us is to really share our success stories,” explained Nicola Forshaw, HR Director at The Landmark London. Supporting and celebrating women is something that the firm tries to achieve regularly. She added: “We are pretty much a 50:50 gender split in the hotel. At our senior-level – we laugh and say it’s girl power – because there are quite a few of us in senior positions ar the hotel. We find it important to tell our stories so anyone coming up in their career that is maybe less confident can see that you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it. I think [it is important] for us to be role models to others and show them that for everyone it takes hard work but, ultimately, with hard work you can get into those senior positions within hospitality.”

Forshaw explained that the firm likes to tell stories as this is a good way of role modelling. Elsewhere, the business is “very into mentoring”. Forshaw continued: “We have quite big graduate and intern programmes as well and they have senior mentors within the business as well so we can tell those stories and guide people on their career journey to ensure that they achieve what they want to achieve.”

Why should employers celebrate IWD?

Well, according to Bandoh, it gives employers the opportunity to celebrate female teams and encourage recognition. Aside from that, she said that it does more than encourage recognition; it also acts as a reminder that there is still a long way to go to champion gender equality. “Ann Summers is proudly a business that is run by women for women and it is important that we celebrate those colleagues that inspire us whilst creating a culture of empowerment and recognition,” Bandoh concluded.

What are you doing to support IWD at work? Let us know in the comments below…

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