While International Women's Day provides a great opportunity to put women’s equality in the spotlight, we don’t want the conversation to pause there. In this blog, we hear from Virgin leader Caroline Ng, on her experience growing within the company, as well as her thoughts on the challenges ahead.
I work on the investment side - investing in new business and managing some of our portfolio companies, including sitting on the boards of Virgin Active and Virgin Care.
It is clear that female representation needs to improve and it is crucial to address representation at all levels, not just at the board. A long term investment mindset is required if you want any talent to stay and grow. And holding onto female talent in particular is important, not just for representation but because role models have such an influence on ensuring a strong pipeline for the future. There is still work to do but there are some great examples of improvements at senior levels within the Virgin Group, even in roles that some might consider to be more traditionally male-dominated: our CFO is a woman, as are the CFOs at both Virgin Active and Virgin Care.
It is also important to reimagine traditional family structures and methods of work/life integration if we are to support female talent. I’ve worked at Virgin for 10 years and in that time have had three children. I’ve remained and thrived in part because I’ve had managers, colleagues and policies in place that are supportive of maternity leave and flexible working. The options are progressive. Colleagues with four years’ service can take up to a full year maternity or shared parental leave on full pay. Paternity pay is an important point, because men need to be part of the conversation too. Equality isn’t a woman’s issue - it’s an everyone issue – and men, like women, must take proactive action to change the status quo.
Childcare and paternal support are only parts of the puzzle, but I’m confident that Virgin will remain restless in exploring new opportunities to push on the agenda, especially when identities are more complex than ever and are constantly being challenged and redefined. For me, it’s also essential that we consider the diversity of talent in its broadest sense, as well as the intersectionality of all those factors. Internally I lead a working group on ethnicity and we’re working to explore routes to both attract and nurture talent from BAME backgrounds. For any consumer business, it’s important to have a variety of voices in the room that reflect your consumer base and the society you live in. We’ve made a great start at Virgin Management and across the portfolio but I do believe that we need to press hard for more progress.
Caroline Ng is Managing Director at Virgin Management.