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Establishing the North East as the best place for women to work

25 July 2019

Newcastle University Business School works with its North East Women Leaders Advisory Board to innovate and create spaces to influence workplace best practices.

On Thursday 27 February, our NEWLab ThinkSpace 2 brought together more than 30 organisations to build a community of practice aimed at changing workplaces so that the North East becomes the best place for women to work.

The session began with a recap of three key drivers identified in NEWLab ThinkSpace 1 to support women to progress in the workplace:

  1. Enabling diverse career shapes
  2. Organisational culture behaviours and values
  3. Senior sponsorship of shifts in practice

Both Susan Fulton, Director of People at Home Group, and Julia Fox, Director at Deloitte shared their organisations’ practises for attracting, promoting and retaining more women into senior leadership roles.

Groups of people sit around tables working collaboratively together

Susan Fulton

Susan spoke about Home Group’s data analysis of women in leadership roles. Despite having over 60% of women working in the sector, the percentage of women in executive roles decreased significantly. As a result, Home Group developed a ‘Women into Senior Leadership’ programme to support female colleagues across the business. As a result, there was a 37% success rate in promotions from those attending the programme.

Julia Fox

Deloitte is the largest professional services organisation in the world, and as such, they are committed to ensuring equality for everyone. Their ultimate aim is to “make a difference to [their] people”. Julia spoke about the importance they place on bringing women into decision-making roles and the cultural changes they have adopted to create an inclusive workplace.

Group work activity

Following on from the talks, guests participated in group work to envisage the best workplace in the region for women leaders. Using resources designed and provided by Nuhj, groups envisaged developing the workplace based on three themes; career shapes, sponsorship and culture. Key ideas to emerge were:

Career shapes

  • Careers rarely go on a linear path and workplaces benefit from valuing non-linear career paths
  • Workplaces need to give support to women leaders throughout their career journeys
  • Both negative and positive work environments can stimulate women to develop their career
  • Organisations should recognise transferable skills for women moving to senior roles
  • Talent spotting can help women who doubted their abilities to move into more senior positions


  • Provide a wealth of opportunities to develop and ensure employees are given time and access to do this as a priority
  • Invest in women leadership role models, inspire people to challenge the norm and commitment to mentor staff
  • Workplaces must be open to evolutionary change
  • Communication should be inclusive, and respectful


  • Organisational cultures should be co-created and owned
  • People are at the heart of cultures, an inclusive and diverse culture should be encouraged
  • The workplace should be a happy and fun place to be
  • Aspired values and actual values should match up
  • There should be an element of psychological safety where people can break away from the norm and grow
  • Organisational cultures need to be continuously fed and watered

This activity was used as a communication tool in the session but also aimed at attendees developing methods to implement in their own workplaces, allowing the region to become a positive and leading place for women leaders. Dr Amy Stabler closed the ThinkSpace by thanking participants for a rich collaboration, which will have an immediate impact by feeding insights into the Business School’s new suite of Lifelong Learning Programmes for work-based learners, as well as the North East Women Leaders Advisory Board action plan.