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Using Social Learning to Address Workplace Gender Inequality – An Interview with Green Onyx

Gender equality is a hot topic at present and hardly a day passes without something in the news about the need to accelerate the rate at which we are achieving gender balance in the workplace, especially at senior levels.

There has been ample evidence showing companies with women on their Boards significantly outperform those with less diverse make-up for years.  And the gender pay gap is now firmly in the spotlight thanks to the new Gender Pay Gap Reporting legislation which took effect on April 5th (2017).

Recent research published by CMI and XpertHR reports that different promotion rates for men and women are one of the main causes of the gender pay gap. In fact, their data shows that male managers are 40% more likely to be promoted than female managers.

So, what action can organisations take to grow female talent and develop future female leaders?

HR specialists use Learning Pool Platform to deliver company-specific courses in areas such as onboarding and leadership, but we’re also accustomed to working directly with training providers who use Learning Pool Platform to sell and deliver their own online learning products.

One such organisation is Green Onyx, a UK-based training consultancy dedicated to helping people achieve their full potential. Earlier this year, they launched a new suite of online training programmes for organisations and individuals to better develop their skills and understanding around issues faced by women in today’s workforce and broader society.

We caught up with Managing Director, Sarah Frame to find out more about their work…

Tell us a little about Green Onyx for those who don’t already know who you are…

Green Onyx specialises in the provision of personal development programmes, particularly aimed at addressing gender equality issues. We recently developed and launched ‘Velocity’, a fully online personal development programme for women.

In response to client demand, we are now developing an exciting new online programme, called ‘Refocus’. Refocus will help organisations to recognise the impact of Unconscious Bias in the workplace and take action to create a more inclusive culture.

How did you come to be so passionate about women’s issues?

Over the last 30 years, I built a successful career to Director level in both private and public sector organisations. Over these years, I have seen many positive improvements in the drive for gender equality in the workplace, but we still have not reached a point where men and women are equally represented in senior positions.

I developed my career whilst bringing up my five children, and so I know how challenging it can be to balance the often conflicting demands of work and family life. I am passionate about helping people develop themselves and grow their careers (whether they are male or female), but my personal experience as a woman gives me a special interest in helping women recognise and fulfil their potential and achieve their ambitions.

What do you feel are the biggest issues when it comes to Gender Inequality in the workplace today? Are they more prevalent in some sectors than others?

Without doubt, there are more issues in the traditionally male dominated industries, such as transport, engineering, science. However, even sectors that have high percentages of women at lower levels still suffer from under-representation of women at senior levels.

Law, medicine, education are all professions where the number of women entering the professions actually outstrips the number of men. And yet, they are all male dominated at leadership levels. For example, 64% of secondary school teachers in England are women, but only 35% of head teachers are female.

I know from working with hundreds of women at all levels and in many different sectors that they still face challenges on a daily basis; some of those organisational and cultural challenges and some more personal in origin.

You’ve recently launched a suite of online courses specifically for women. Tell us a bit more about them and how organisations will benefit as a result of employees completing the programme.

As I intimated earlier, there are both extrinsic and intrinsic factors underlying the challenges facing women in getting to the top. Velocity addresses the intrinsic factors – these areas that we know from experience seem to be more challenging for women to overcome.

Women often tend to lack self-confidence, to be more self critical and self doubting; to be less likely to put themselves forward for new opportunities than their male colleagues; feel awkward promoting themselves positively; and struggle with the appropriate use of assertive behaviours.

Velocity provides women with a comprehensive set of topics tailored to address these common challenges and equip them with the skills, confidence and strength to develop themselves and grow their careers. Participants can work through Velocity at a pace that suits their personal requirements and their individual circumstances.

Velocity enables organisations to offer their female employees access to high quality development in a highly scaleable and cost effective way. Flexibilty is one of the key benefits of Velocity – it is fully online, accessible on mobile devices; and so participants can work on their development when, where and how it suits them.

The range of resources and activities, social collaboration and gamification elements all combine to give participants a truly engaging experience. Velocity enables companies to do something tangible to grow their female talent, develop their future female leaders – and close that pay gap!

The courses are delivered through our Social Learning Pool Platform. What was it that make you chose Learning Pool Platform as your programme delivery platform?

We know from delivering face to face programmes and workshops that when women work together and share their experiences, challenges, successes, the development experience is more powerful.

Women bond quickly and can provide very important support and encouragement to each other.  Ensuring that our online programme enabled this important collaboration and networking to take place was a key priority for us when developing Velocity.

We think Learning Pool Platform is the best platform for social and collaborative learning and loved that it enables participants to not only join in discussions but also lets them upload their own content and work to share with their peers.

It is really rewarding to see our Velociteers sharing examples of their completed activities or new resources that support the topic they are working on.  And it is so easy and intuitive to do that, even if you are not used to working in an online environment.

What kind of response have you had from programme participants so far?

They absolutely love the look and feel of the programme and especially the ease with which they can work through it. The level of peer interaction is growing quickly and it is rewarding to see them developing increased confidence in working collaboratively online.

“I feel empowered to keep going, to challenge some of my thinking about me, This is my courageous spirit reawakening I guess.”

A few women have commented very positively on how different it feels from a more traditional elearning experience; that it is much more natural and engaging.

“I’m using my experiences from the Velocity course in giving me the space to think and also utilising the different models to make my thinking more productive and focused”

There has been a really good reaction to the ‘curation’ approach mix of videos, podcasts, activities and discussions. As the programme creators, we like that we can easily add new resources and keep the content fresh and relevant.

The gamification elements provide a light and easy way for participants to track their progress and serves to both motivate and reward them for contributing to the programme.

“This is exciting! I am now moving into new territory and I am learning about something in myself I haven’t previously thought of.”

And finally, what would you say to organisations currently considering how to respond to the impending Gender Pay Gap legislation?

Look on the reporting requirements as an opportunity, not a trap!

The aim of the new legislation is to help organisations recognise where in their pipeline they may have gender equality issues – or indeed successes! Once you know if/where there are problem areas, then there are a range of actions that can be taken to improve gender equality.

The reporting requirements are also a great opportunity to publicise all the steps an organisation is taking towards improving gender equality – one of which may be the provision of women only development programmes like Velocity!

Find Out More

Green Onyx are proudly supporting the We Are Future Leaders conference (run by WeAreTheCity) on 12th May 2017.

We’ll be taking a closer look at the Velocity programme later in the year, but for now, we encourage organisations wanting to enhance their gender equality strategy and achieve better outcomes to find out more about Green Onyx’s training programmes and consultancy services.

The Learning Pool Platform learning platform is used by business and education providers across the globe to deliver learning programmes that really get people talking – Find out more.

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