March 7, 2019
In her brilliant book Becoming, Michelle Obama talks about a habit that 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, and to mark International Women’s Day, we spoke to its founding members to find out more.
“The greatest success is when the network gives a voice to someone who feels they haven’t had one.” Frances Joseph
Connect, learn and share
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.
“We’ve found that a lot of women here are stuck with self-limiting beliefs and a lack of confidence,” says senior change manager and Scarlet Network co-chair Frances Joseph. “The network can help people feel fulfilled in their role, and able to tap into another source of support and development. Really it’s about positioning us all to be at our 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.”
2019 a big year for Scarlet
In its short two-year history the Scarlet Network has gone from strength to strength. For 2019 Caz, Dawn and Frances have introduced a committee of ten people to run and develop the network, with the committee roles themselves designed to develop the women who volunteer their time to help.
“Each committee member has an area of responsibility,” says Dawn. “The idea is that this can develop and showcase their potential, demonstrate leadership behaviours, have something useful to put on their CVs and get a jump up from where they are today to where they want to get to, hopefully getting them in a good place for their next promotion or role.”
Among the other things planned for 2019 are a series of workshops tailored to the needs of the groups’ members. They’re also continuing the popular lecture series that began last year, involving some really motivating and inspiring people. Among last year’s highlights were diversity advocate Richard Robinson and career coach Sarah Ellis as well as some internal speakers like 747 pilot Yvonne Kershaw or some of the senior leaders at Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays.
Also new to 2019 is the creation of “Lean in Circles”. These small groups consist of five or six people who meet every month and are a safe and trusted place where Scarlet members can discuss topics in confidence. They’re also an excellent way to get a two-way conversation going with the broader group. It’s going to be a great year.
“I recognise bringing together a network of people with shared values can help me be at my best” Dawn Horrod
Why do we need the Scarlet Network?
It’s a testament to the power of the Scarlet Network that it’s already so established and has members from every area of our airline.
The network is one of many initiatives at Virgin Atlantic aimed at helping women. We believe in treating all of our people fairly, but like the rest of our industry, our gender pay gap is higher than we’d like it to be. While that’s heavily influenced by the demographics of specific roles in our business, particularly pilots, engineers and cabin crew, it’s something we’re committed to improving. We have a series of ambitions, including the launch of our Diversity and Inclusion strategy “Be Yourself”, which commits to attracting and developing a more diverse workforce.
We’re confident these measures will help us achieve a 50/50 balance of men and women in leadership roles by 2022 and see our gender pay results improve.