Executives Driving Gender Equality – Flexible Working Think Tank

WORK180 recently hosted an Executives Driving Gender Equality (EDGE) Think Tank focused on flexible working, complementing the development of our FlexAble Certification, a global accreditation awarded to workplaces that truly embrace flexible working.

Outlined in this article are some of the key learnings, challenges and observations that senior executives and thought leaders addressed during the meeting.

Senior management needs to set the example

A significant part of the discussion was spent attempting to combat the ‘Boys Club’ mentality. Workplace policies need to keep up with social change. Outdated traditions and assumption about men and women when it comes to childcare needs to change.

Chloé Chambraud, Gender Equality Director at Business in the Community highlights that: “Men taking up paternity or shared parental leave sends a message that times are changing.”

Daniel Clegg, HR Business Partner at Zendesk shares their progressive approach to parental leave. Zendesk offer 16 weeks paid leave to both carers. Daniel explains that this encourages men to experience what women go through. They need to plan this time off and think about the impact on their career and family. This policy also gives men the opportunity to enjoy an extended time with their newborn and to support their partner.

Kate Rand, People Director & Agile HR Practitioner at Beyond stated: “Women are seen as the ones who need to take on the domestic role and men are given a choice. It shouldn’t be a double standard. You need to gather the whole management team and discuss the need for change.

“Explain to your Senior Management that the new generation of team members expect certain ways of working.”

An effective flexible working policy requires clear communication

Amongst the Diversity & Inclusion leaders, there was a clear consensus that communication is key.

Geoffrey Williams, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Thomson Reuters asked: “All team members work in different ways. How do we strengthen sectors across the company by incorporating flexible working?”

Thomson Reuters ensure that there is a clear strategy behind their flexible working policy. Their team ‘hot desk’ for three days a week and work from home twice a week. To ensure smoothness, they have an app to book desks.

Likewise, Beyond use a bot to tell the team where everyone is, at home or in the office. The Beyond team agree that being in the office does not equate to productivity.

Luciana Carvalho Se, Marketing, Partnerships, Diversity & Inclusion at Beyond, expressed: “Flexible working is agile working. It means freedom and not having to choose between life, family or work.”

Chloé Chambraud recognises that: “Policies for flexible working need to be clearly published on your website.”

Rachel Shepherd, Senior HR Manager at Toyota shared that their team has a policy of no important meeting before 10:00am. “We need to stand by these policies publicly and not make any exceptions.”

Eleanor Highwood, Dean of Diversity & Inclusion at the University of Reading, revealed the powerful decision made by their team: “All job descriptions include flexible working. If a manager cannot for some reason offer flexible working, they need to present a case to Senior Management explaining why that is.”

Data will strengthen the case for flexible working

The leaders strongly emphasize the importance of data and engagement surveys. It’s important to record insights of exactly what team members actually want and need. This makes the case much stronger when reporting back to senior managers. Unsurprisingly, flexible working usually comes out on top.

Jane McDonald, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Leonardo emphasises: “It’s about output, not about the number of hours you sit in the office.”


The WORK180 criteria table consolidates this point. Flexible working is the number one criteria we know that our community require. Therefore, we list the support for flexible working first on the employer tables.

Chloé Chambraud stressed the importance of quality over quantity when it comes to data: “Focus groups tell you exactly why the men in your organization are not working flexibly.”

We are delighted to have hosted this event at the offices of Endorsed Employer for Women, Zendesk. We welcomed Zendesk to our platform due to their offering of flexible working, 22 weeks maternity leave and 16 weeks paternity leave, access to leadership development programmes along with a number of other initiatives. Read more about Zendesk’s progressive policies here.

About the EDGE Think Tank

The EDGE Think Tank consists of an Executive Panel of proactive industry leaders selected for their drive and the collective experience to move the dial on gender equality. We convene quarterly for live discussion and debate, with additional collaboration and information sharing encouraged and supported throughout the year. Facilitated by WORK180 Founders and Gender Equality Specialists Gemma Lloyd and Valeria Ignatieva, we exist to accelerate progress towards three key goals:

  1. Achieve equal pay for women and men in the UK
  2. Increase the percentage of women in UK leadership roles
  3. Increase the participation of women in traditionally male-dominated industries

We will achieve this by:

  • Collaborating and sharing best practice to improve our own organisations’ actions
  • Promoting the issues and the solutions to our networks, and encouraging change, one company at a time
  • Uniting to influence UK policymakers to shine a light on, and meaningfully support, this critical agenda

Attendees: Mabel Aranda, Ferrovial Agroman; Kathleen Hunter, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist; Aneta Weedon, Moneysupermarket; Penny McIntyre, Network Rail; Chloé Chambraud, Business in the Community; Christina Brooks, Rolls-Royce; Annabel West, Macquarie; Rob Brown, Expedia Group; Sonya Veerasamy, EW Group; Wiktoria Schulz, EW Group; Rachel Shepherd, Toyota; Daniel Clegg, Zendesk; Ann Roberts, Badoo; Eleanor Highwood, University of Reading; Luciana Carvalho Se, Beyond; Kate Rand, Beyond; Elise Baseley, Cabinet Office; Kate Glazebrook, Applied; Geoffrey Williams, Thomson Reuters; Jane McDonald, Leonardo; Sandra Phillips, Oxford University; Jadi Kraja, WORK180; Genna Kalish, WORK180; Gemma Lloyd, WORK180.




WORK180 is an international jobs network that connects smart businesses with talented women. They also take into account diversity initiatives focusing on age, ability,...

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