In Conversation: 'The Importance of Gender Diversity' - with Donna Scully
03 November 2023
We are incredibly proud that our CEO, Donna Richards, has been shortlisted as a finalist in the ‘Contribution to Gender Diversity’ category at the Lead5050 Awards taking place on 4th November.
Our Director, Donna Scully, discusses why we have been recognised and why it's important:
"It’s been a very busy few weeks, months and year; and if I’m honest, it’s just like all the others that I can ever really remember! And there have been a few.
What I will and want to say is….I have had a little downtime over the past week or so I’ve had a few thoughts around all things past and present. I have reflected upon a few things about mine, and John’s business, our struggles, success, progress, all things gender and diversity generally, alongside more and most importantly our future direction.
Like any two people starting up a new business or changing an existing business for the better, we knew, first and foremost, we had to be profitable, successful and good. Who wouldn’t? Surely that’s the end game? In our early days, whilst our business progressed, in all the ways that we had hoped for, the other bits (that’s what I am calling them for this piece, anyway) slowly dripped into the business that we have become today. By that, I mean, giving back, sowing what you reap, in a positive way, etc. I suppose, truly doing the right thing for the people and our communities, came in quite quickly as well. It was something, we both felt really strongly about, I suppose from the off. But, I will say, understanding what it meant to be sustainable as a business came a little later. If I am honest, it’s a work in progress for us that is evolving for me personally and the business.
John and I built our business, and have tried our best to preserve and foster what we’ve grown. In our senior roles, to this day, we have maintained, broadly speaking a 50/50 male/female split at all levels, 50% of our executive board are women and 50% of our Operations Board are also women. We have gender pay parity at all levels within our business. Diversity wasn’t necessarily a clear objective, it’s been an organic result of the culture we have fostered, one that we very proud of and flowing from that, what has been achieved. Meritocracy, flexibility and caring brings diversity.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that John and I, from our basic backgrounds, had a belief, and probably, when I look back, a deep awareness and understanding of why diversity, equity, inclusion and equality of opportunity were important. It was more that, it was that they were right and vital! The absolute reality of the world, whether or not any of us ever really want to admit it. Is that the world we all now live within, (and I am saying this now more than ever!) is that, we need to support and help each other out, when and where we can. It really is the only way forward. The business that we have grown, has always understood and unequivocally, I suppose, recognised the importance of what difference brings to the table, not only for our people, but also other people, communities, clients and, for the wider society as a whole.
Our gender pay parity and gender diversity at all levels wasn’t necessarily a strategic objective from the off, it has happened very naturally within our business, by bringing through and supporting the right people for the role regardless of their gender. We are incredibly proud of the fact, that this year are gender pay gap is 5.8%. We have always had and still do, have gender representation across all levels, which is integral to our culture of supporting and developing women. 55% of our people who have the highest salaries in our business are women. I don’t think this should be underplayed, or maybe even understated, as it’s highly unusual for both the insurance and legal sector. It demonstrates that Carpenters Group along with mine and John’s strong support and commitment to progressing career pathways for everyone.
Even though, we have gender parity at Executive Board and Operations Board level, our senior women are an integral and essential part of our leadership team, as are our men. This means, that in our business decisions and discussions, we have a balanced perspective. We work together cohesively so that we better understand what our colleagues and clients’ need and want. This is something that we have worked really hard to achieve and it has best off in terms of our team spirit and our success.
With the help of our wonderful ‘Carpenters Group People’, our ambition as a business is to continually improve, creating a workplace which is truly inclusive, where difference is celebrated and most importantly, where everyone can be themselves regardless of gender identity, ethnicity, socio-economic background, sexuality, religion and belief, age, disability, caring responsibilities or health challenges. Our objectives and aims around diversity, inclusion and equality continue to grow and evolve. We are also acutely aware that gender equality and diversity is not just about our women, it’s about our men too and that’s why we always ensure we have equality of opportunity for all. I really do stand behind all of this, I can’t say it enough.
We are doing so much other good stuff as well! We have a full time Environment, Social and Governance Lead in place to ensure that we continue to set clear objectives and to drive their delivery. We are continuously reviewing our policies around family leave to ensure we develop a culture whereby both women and men are well supported at times of significant change in their life. We have established a fully hybrid working model which supports and encourages flexibility and a work-life balance.
The past 12 months, in particular, have been so very busy for me and the Carpenters Group team! We have been focussing on developing our people at all levels, through our apprenticeship programme, mentoring, career coaching and also with our leadership and management development programme for all existing and aspiring managers. We are firmly committed to supporting and working alongside our external partners including the 30% Club, the Women in Finance Charter, Women in the Law, Elevate and our numerous apprenticeship providers, schools and universities to promote progression and opportunity within our profession. We also continue to promote equality of opportunity in our recruitment and promotions practices, ensuring that the right person is successful, regardless of their gender or background. We are diversifying our recruitment practices, pipelines and processes in order to attract new and more diverse candidates and are using including the use of an applicant tracking system, blind CV recruitment, gender balanced interview panels and training which that will enhance our ability to remove unconscious bias from the recruitment process. Other things that we are mindful of as a business are around how we conduct our salary and bonus review and calculation, our main ambition is to ensure that this process is completely fair, consistent and transparent.
We are very pleased with our results within gender equality, but what I will say is that we will never “rest on our laurels” as my mammy would say! We want to continue to make positive changes across all elements of our diversity and inclusion agenda. Our understanding of diversity and inclusion continues to evolve and it is very much a key focus for our business. I really want us to work with our people so that we can continue to have discussions and set objectives about how we should celebrate difference, whilst ensuring equality of opportunity across all of our business practices and policies.
I truly believe that our, any and all businesses should employ the best people for all their roles regardless of gender, background or circumstances. By removing barriers to entry, investing in the tools to support progression and creating the right working environment, you can see absolute and utter positive change. The more representative our society is, the fairer it will be for everyone.
Yes we can!"