Case Study:

How Sky does diversity

Written by Michelle Perry Tuesday 31 January 2017
Sky is leading the way on gender diversity and towards a 50/50 gender split among managers.
woman standing at boardroom table

Sky is working towards a 50/50 gender split among managers (as recommended by CMI). Currently 40% of the media company’s senior managers are women, a rise of almost ten per cent on the 2015 figures. This isn’t happening by accident. Sky Europe has taken a strategic approach to working towards gender parity among its senior managers because it knows that a balanced workplace delivers clear results.

“Diverse teams deliver the best results. Fact,” says Chris Stylianou, chief operating officer (UK and Ireland), Sky, speaking at the recent CMI Women event. Stylianou is also executive sponsor of “Women in leadership”, the company’s dedicated gender programme.

Sky is doing three things to achieve its goal of a 50/50 gender balance. First, it has levelled the playing field through 50/50 shortlists for all senior roles. Next, Sky has developed its Women in Leadership Sponsorship & Development programme. Third, the media company is attracting talented women through targeted marketing. Critically, group CEO Jeremy Darroch is leading from the top, with the programme overseen by executives and their senior teams.

The change resulting from the 50/50 shortlists was significant, Stylianou says. “We had to change the way we described jobs and we moved our hiring rate from 70% men to 60% women. We saw an immediate change in the talent pool. Any role still has to be filled by the best person regardless,” he says.

As for the sponsorship programme, Stylianou says it had to be “seen and felt” to make a difference. Women bear the brunt of childcare and other caring responsibilities so allowing flexible working is critical to retaining women in the workplace. The culture of presenteeism where employees have to remain at their desks from 9am to 5pm is not conducive to modern living for many women. At Sky, the culture of presenteeism was “a barrier to change”.

In terms of networking and self-promotion, research shows that women are less adept, so Stylianou explains that Sky has a sponsorship system that links top managers with lower levels. As a result of the programme, 30% of women sponsored through the scheme have “moved up”.

“Women will not put themselves forward unless they can do 95% of the tasks outlined in a job description. That’s not a trait you see in men,” he says.

Stylianou hails the impact these programmes have made at Sky and recommends that all employers work towards gender parity. His key tips:

“Get the CEO involved. Set goals and metrics. Keep it simple and focus on small things. Talk about it and promote it.”

In January, CMI revealed that four out of five managers have witnessed gender discrimination in the past 12 months. In 2016, CMI released new data showing that the UK economy will need two million new managers by 2024 – and 1.5 million will need to be women if we are to achieve gender balance.

Michelle will be blogging again this week. For more insight about best practice in gender diversity, visit CMI Women’s Blueprint for Balance.

Michelle Perry

Michelle Perry

Michelle was reporting from “CMI Women – Men as agents of change” on 25 January 2017. The panel discussion, “Publicising Male Role Models”, was chaired by Eleanor Mills, editorial director at The Sunday Times.