The bank’s gender network, has been set up to help attract, retain and develop women. It has over 13,000 members across the globe, over a quarter of whom are men.
RBS Women (now NatWest Group Gender Network)
RBS Women (now NatWest Group Gender Network)
NatWest Group

The network was responsible for over 250 pieces of activity in 2019 including launching a mentoring app, running a bank wide development programme for junior women and launching a ’50 Ways to Fight Bias’ initiative. The team who run the network are all volunteers overseeing 30 different strands and regions. In 2020 they will launch a bank wide speed mentoring programme and are working with the personal bank to create a product to help the predominantly female customers who are victims of financial coercion.

The team are the winners of the WIBF 2020 Team Diversity Award.

There are 13,000 members of the Gender Network globally and 6 people in the team, how do you manage all the activity and programmes?

As a network of volunteers, success is driven by one thing – having a team of dedicated individuals with a sense of shared purpose and a profound passion for change! There are 12 Regions and 10 Strands (which represent different business areas or specials interests e.g. Women in Technology, Coutts) split across the UK, Ireland, USA, Poland and India.

Each Region and Strand has a chair who leads their committee and sits on the Gender Network global committee. This means we can take a collegiate approach with the global management team leading on cross-region and strand activity, with an empowered dynamic and flexible network of passionate volunteers supporting the delivery of the overall vision. Strands and Regions are encouraged to set their own operating model, with the support of a management team buddy. Most choose to meet bimonthly to plan and deliver events locally. This is supported by a monthly global steering committee, led by one of the 6 people in our team, to cross-collaborate ideas and cascade any updates centrally.

As a team our core role is setting the network’s top 5 objectives which all Regions and Strands activities which we agree on an annual basis with the Regions and Strands, who then commit to undertake activity that will support and enable this. Giving our volunteers the ownership, accountability and equally the praise helps to create an all-inclusive network where every voice is heard.

What are the strongest traits of the team?

The diversity in our backgrounds and the very different roles we have within the bank that helps inform very different sets of views. Everyone is unique and offers their own experiences and knowledge that others may not possess. This diversity in thought enables us to constructively challenge one another to drive the best results. Equally our diversity means that we each have our own strengths that when united means we are a force to be reckoned with. We have the organized one, the ex-military goals orientated one, the creative/fun one, the structured one, the listener and the collaborative one . All of this encompassed by good leadership, set by our Co-Chairs and a commitment to honest, clear and strong communication, I believe are what makes this team so effective.

Can you tell us more about The Development Programme?

The network’s annual development programme gives participants a hugely exciting and unique opportunity to grow and develop with like-minded colleagues. We look for people with a passion not just for their own development, but also for that of others, and with a drive to succeed and deliver positive outcomes. We ran the 2019 programme across 13 regions globally, with 156 candidates and 65 coaches for 8 weeks. This was made up of a series of elements including workshops, webinars and coaching, covering topics such as leadership, networking, influencing, personal brand and concluded with a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style presentation to senior management.

We have seen numerous successes with a few we are extremely proud of detailed below:
• 94% of candidates found the programme very effective at expanding their network, increasing their self-confidence and improving their pitching and presentation skills
• 90% of candidates would recommend the programme to a friend or colleague
• 30% of candidates have achieved a promotion into a higher role since completing the programme

In 2019 you launched a ’50 Ways to Fight Bias’ initiative, what do you think are the top three most effective ways?

Each 1 of the 50 is powerful in their own right however 3 core themes we would highlight are;

1) Recruitment- “After an interview, a colleague says they didn’t like how a woman candidate bragged about her strengths and accomplishments”. If a woman describes her strengths in the same way as a man, this is often still misconstrued. As a result, women are less likeable and are often less likely to get the job or equally will downplay their success to compensate this.

2) Everyday Interactions- “Attribution bias” we are subconsciously drawn to those that look like us, talk like us, walk like us. This is often referred to the ‘boys club culture’ and can be seen when exclusive/non-inclusive social activities make it difficult for people from different backgrounds to develop the relationships that further careers.

3) Mentor & Sponsorship- “When women turn down opportunities they’re qualified for because of self-doubt, then they and companies miss out.” If men only sponsor men, or white women only sponsor white women then this becomes a tick boxing exercises only. We believe strongly that we need to take an intersectional approach to gender diversity, and we work closely with our other Employee-Led Networks to achieve this.

You have 3,000 male allies in the network, how have you seen the success of this programme within the business?

As a team we have fully embraced that this is not a ‘women’s problem’ but everybody’s problem. Everybody has something to benefit from an all-inclusive workforce and so it will take everybody to change it. Having male allies enables us to have a voice, championing our cause in a different way than what we have been typically able to. This voice has been useful in helping to break down some of the historic barriers that have previously stood in the way. It can be challenging and uncomfortable for a women to highlight some of the behaviours that continue today and having this amplified by a male colleague has acted as a catalyst across the organisation. In addition, having a number of male allies that have taken the pledge has helped to build awareness in general which subsequently has positively impacted all parts of our everyday working environment.

If you to describe each team member in one word what would those words be?!
STRONG: Sincere ,Tenacious, Reflective, Open-Minded, Natural, Gallant.