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Where Are All The Women?

Ulster Bank and RBS Group employees from across the globe tuned into a live teleconference on Monday evening for an audience with Ross McEwan, CEO, RBS and Susan Allen, Chief Executive, Customer Solutions Group, RBS. The audience was hosted by Chris Sullivan, Deputy CEO, RBS and opened by Heather Melville, Founder and Global Chair of ‘The Focused Women’s Network’.

The Focused Women’s Network was launched in March 2007 to support RBS Group in actively attracting, retaining and developing talented female members of staff. The network supports the development and career advancement of all RBS employees by giving them further opportunities to network internally and externally, to get involved in activities that will enable them excel and challenge themselves, and to gain access to additional personal development.

They welcome men as members to the network as they can often provide support to women who wish to progress to senior levels, and for those men also wanting to progress, all of the development activities are relevant to both women and men.

Chris, the self-proclaimed Michael Parkinson was our witty and charming host. He’s the Executive Sponsor of the network so he is very much aware of the challenges that women face in advancing their careers. He knows Ross and Susan well so the atmosphere was very relaxed and intimate.

Susan said that she didn’t ever feel discriminated against in her career or that gender was an issue until she reached a certain point in her career and thought “Where are all the women?” 7 years ago, she got together with Heather to create a women’s network and The Focused Women’s Network was the fruit of their labour.

There are around 12,000 people involved in women’s networks in RBS across the globe, including in Ireland with our ‘Women In Touch’ internally and our ‘Business Women Can’ externally. These networks are changing the perception of RBS and Ulster Bank as businesses. We want to encourage our staff to progress and learn and networks are simply another platform for learning where we bring like minded people together.When asked about a work/life balance, Susan says that you can’t generalise – what works for you may not work for someone else. The key is to not cripple yourself with guilt and move on.

On that subject, Ross McEwan works to live rather than lives to work. He likes to don the lycra on a Saturday and cycle in Richmond park with his daughter. He doesn’t mind working hard throughout the week but weekends are strictly for family. Ross is customer-obsessed and wants to rebuild trust with customers and concentrate on serving them – he can now see a future where the bank will be turned into something special. However, he is just as concerned about his employees and the need for them to be treated with dignity. He made the very valid point that diversity is not only a male/female thing – networks need to focus on diversity across all backgrounds and focus on matching the workforce to our customers and their needs.

Ross says that the difference between men and women is that “blokes have a go but women don’t”.

So he told every one of us there – “Have a go”. I think I will!

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