Based in Edinburgh, the role model Tesco Bank has chosen to celebrate is Debbie Walker. Find out more about why Debbie has been put forward by the retail bank as the individual it wants Women in Banking & Finance to celebrate and about the initiatives she has led.
Having worked for Tesco Bank for four years, Debbie Walker is seen as someone gone above and beyond in pushing the diversity and inclusion agenda, as an individual and in her leadership role.
As an individual, Debbie is credited with supporting others as they seek to succeed in their careers. She also actively advocates a positive work/life balance, while acknowledging the challenges and trade-offs in an authentic and genuine manner – an approach that has led to many seeing her as an influencer across the business.
But it is in her role as the executive sponsor for the Women at Tesco network – responsibilities that sit on top of her ‘day job’ as the Chief Risk Officer – that have led to the recognition by Tesco Bank and Women in Banking & Finance (WIBF).
One event that stood out for the Tesco team was the promotion of International Women’s Day where the 2021 theme of “Choose to Challenge” was embraced during an event which Debbie co-hosted and which focused on workplace challenges. Showing vulnerability, she flagged that senior leaders may also have doubts and question their value, and shared real experiences and stories colleagues could relate to. In addition to the fantastic feedback from the event itself, the discussions helped colleagues across the retail bank realise its executives were no different to themselves and faced similar obstacles.
Another initiative seen as particularly pertinent during the pandemic was the partnership with Vilo Sky – a coaching and consultancy organisation helping drive workplace equality and the career progression of women – to provide support for working parents within Tesco Bank. Aside from the support coming at a time when working parents were juggling home schooling on top of their usual parental responsibilities, the programme highlighted to mothers and fathers in Tesco Bank that they weren’t alone in their feelings. In building an inclusive environment for colleagues, many could come together and support each other through the sharing of experiences.
As a keen advocate on wellbeing issues for females, Debbie also championed the bank’s “Flushfest” events to support female health and open the conversation on menopause, historically a taboo subject. The events, and a collaboration with the colleague experience team, have also led to the development by Tesco Bank of a soon-to-be-published menopause guide for line managers, which will raise awareness in the symptoms and help them to better support their colleagues.
Building on an initiative a colleague championed outside of work, Debbie also sponsored Tesco Bank’s “Hey Girls” partnership, which offers free period products across all Tesco Bank sites and has developed into an initiative that all colleagues in Tesco Bank are very proud of. It also means that Tesco Bank was able to help the wider period poverty issue, as every product purchased from ‘Hey Girls’ results in a product being donated to a UK woman or girl in need too.
Aside from the success for the separate initiatives, over the last 18 months the membership numbers for the Women at Tesco network has steadily grown, which Tesco and WIBF believe demonstrates the positive impact of the work that Debbie has delivered for gender equality. In summing up Debbie’s capabilities, Gerry Mallon, Chief Executive Officer for Tesco Bank stated: “Debbie makes a huge impact as a role model at Tesco Bank – working her way impressively up to an Executive Committee role, leading and helping those around her to deliver more, and better, for our customers. But in addition, she takes the time to thoughtfully advise and assist others, mentoring and developing colleagues, and pushing the organisation forward on multiple women’s issues, and as a result commands huge respect and followership.” High praise indeed!