February 28, 2020
Every year International Women’s Day has a different theme. For 2020 this is #EachforEqual, highlighting that an equal world is an enabled world and how collectively, each one of us can take steps to achieve this. We can do it by being responsible for our own thoughts and actions and actively choosing to challenge stereotypes, as well as fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements. Here at Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays, we mark International Women’s Day by celebrating some of the many inspirational women working in our business, who in turn inspire and motivate their teams to be the best they can be. We asked them about their roles, the secrets of their success, and their thoughts on how women’s equality is progressing. You can view all our profiles below.
For a number of mostly historic reasons, the airline industry has a particularly poor record on gender pay. It’s a massive missed opportunity for us and something we’re keen to put right. It’s going to take time but everyone in the company is committed to addressing this imbalance and we have an ambition to have a 50:50 gender mix within our leader population by 2022. To help create a fairer distribution and help women at lower levels to be more confident and take control, we run two programmes called the Scarlet Network and Springboard.
In her brilliant book Becoming, Michelle Obama talks about a habit that has sustained her for life: ‘Keeping a close and high-spirited council of girlfriends – a safe harbour of female wisdom’.
Here at Virgin Atlantic we have our own version of that council called the Scarlet Network. Started in 2016 by head of category Caz Johnson and capacity control manager Dawn Horrod, the Scarlet Network has grown from an initial 30 members to nearly 600 today. The network dictum is ‘Taking women to the next level’, and their aim is to improve the lives of women and help progress their careers. They achieve this by holding networking sessions, bringing in some brilliant and inspirational guest speakers and by developing and sharing skills. It’s about letting women know that we recognise their talent, have got their back and support them if they want to do more.
The Scarlet Network helps women break out from self-limiting beliefs and a lack of confidence. It can help people feel fulfilled in their role, and able to tap into another source of support and development. It’s about positioning women at Virgin Atlantic to be at their best as much as possible.
Caz has recently earned a promotion, something she partly attributes to the experience gained from being in the network. “Working in finance, I was constrained by a particular outlook and mindset,” she says. “The network in Scarlet allows you to find different perspectives from around the business. To shift mindsets.”
Springboard is a more formal course of personal and professional development offered to the women of Virgin Atlantic. It’s designed and delivered by women for women and gives the participants the skills and confidence to make meaningful changes and improvements in their careers and their personal lives.
Springboard is about developing leaders from women within our airline who may not have realised their own potential. This is life changing stuff. The course looks at how to assess your own strengths and weaknesses, how to assess the business world around you, how to establish core values and set goals and where to find support and information. It also covers how to be more assertive, manage stress, create and implement action plans, and how to create a positive impression.
The women-only environment provides participants with the most effective setting, with content and exercises that are designed for and relevant to women.
“This isn’t just about work. It is a whole holistic programme that can be applied to home as well as work. It builds assertiveness and confidence,” says Jenny Breach, who runs Springboard. “Our Leadership team fully support the programme and since launching in 2018, our Springboard Alumni has grown to just over 220 and last year we ran our first International programme in Atlanta.”
Equality is not a women’s issue, it’s an issue for all of us and is essential if economies and communities are to thrive. Let’s all be #EachforEqual and build a world that’s healthier, wealthier and more harmonious.