Supported by the GX Project, Invest Newcastle teamed up with 50:50 Future to share best practice on gender balance in the workplace.  North of Tyne Mayor, Jamie Driscoll opened the event and was followed by an expert panel of representatives from leading organisations including Virgin Money, Home Group and Jumping Rivers. 

The event took place at Bamburgh House, Newcastle on Thursday 26th September. It was open to all businesses who wanted to learn more about creating an inclusive workplace culture.   

Jamie Driscoll welcomed attendees and showed his support and commitment to promoting an inclusive and equal workplace in the North of Tyne, as outlined in his manifesto. 

He said: “Gender diversity isn’t just a HR issue, it’s about culture change and tackling unconscious bias. We need to be in a position when nobody even notices more men in leadership roles, there will just be a balance. The bottom line is workplaces work better when they are more diverse.”   

This event provided an opportunity to hear from experts who are committed to gender balance in the workplace.

The panel was chaired by Tech Nation’s Community and Engagement Manager, Jamie Hardesty and speakers included Chris Higham, Head of Strategy and Change from financial services brand Virgin Money, Kate Horsfield, Employability Business Partner from housing association Home Group and Esther Gillespie, CEO from data science firm Jumping Rivers.  All who showed passion while sharing their experiences, challenges and knowledge with the audience. 

The panel discussed how as a business you can be gender balanced, however the higher paid the position, the more male dominated the roles seem to become. 

Chris Higham, Head of Strategy and Change (Payments) Virgin Money said: “Affecting positive change in the workplace requires a shift in cultural norms, particularly around the roles and responsibilities of working parents. Mentorship and sponsorship within organisations for gender balance initiatives is fundamental to effect positive change.” 

Kate Horsfield, Employability Business Partner, Home Group said: “It is so important to champion women and create cultures within our organisations that people want to work for, progress within and feel comfortable to be part of”  

Gender balance is a topical subject that is increasingly becoming a priority for businesses. 50:50’s mission is to achieve gender equality in the workplace by helping companies get the balance right through specialist training and support. They help organisations to cultivate an inclusive culture and values that benefit men, women, future generations and the workplace. 

Lyndsey Britton, Co-founder of 50:50 said; ‘When working with organisations we help them view their challenges with a holistic approach. We want to move them towards removal of barriers rather than emphasising equity initiatives as we know they need the right communication and inclusivity to work effectively. We know that everyone can create inclusion or exclusion and that’s why one-off interventions simply don’t work, this is not just an HR initiative or tick-box exercise. Creating an inclusive culture not only makes good business sense but ethically it is the right thing to do.’

Invest Newcastle support businesses with their growth plans and are committed to supporting an inclusive economy and facilitating innovation-led growth across the city.  

Ciara Slack, Senior Investment Manager, Invest Newcastle added: “Invest Newcastle were delighted to be part of this event, it was an unmissable opportunity to hear about some of the challenges businesses face when striving for gender balance. I have no doubt that this event inspired attendees and I hope this will help other businesses overcome challenges and change behavior. 

“Invest Newcastle is committed to supporting business to achieve equality in the workplace and this event is just one example of how we are facilitating collaboration and learning across sectors.   I would encourage all businesses to learn more, share experiences and help us build a truly inclusive city.” 

This event is supported by GX projecta two-year business innovation programme part of the Great Exhibition of the North. One of their aims is to increase the visibility of women in innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership. It is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and delivered by NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI), in partnership with Innovation SuperNetwork.  GX was developed to engage North East LEP SMEs and scaleups to unlock their innovation capacity, propensity to collaborate and ability to develop new products.