With a score of 0.64, the EWoB Gender Diversity Index 2020, the United Kingdom is ranked Nr.3 out of 16 European countries included in the STOXX Europe 600. The UK’s percentage of women at the executive level is the second highest percentage recorded (25%). It also is the country with the third highest percentage of women in committees (41%). Out of 106 British companies which are included in the 2019 as well as in the 2020 dataset, 78 improved their score over the past year. We feel honoured to present you one of these companies – Halma plc.
Halma plc is ranked Nr.8 out of 600 companies listed in the STOXX 600 Europe, with the 2020 EWoB GDI score of 1,03. (GDI Index ranges from 0 to 2, with 1 as the ideal value. Zero index value would mean no women in leadership and the value of 2 would mean no men in leadership). It is a global group of life-saving technology companies. Named Britain’s Most Admired Company in 2020, it provides innovative solutions to many of the key problems facing the world today. Halma´s purpose is to grow a safer, cleaner, healthier future for everyone by protecting life as populations grow and urbanise, improving food and water quality, and monitoring air pollution or meeting rising healthcare demand. Its strategy is focused on acquiring and growing businesses in global niche markets. Revenue for the year to 31 March 2021 was £1,318.2m.
In our interview we would like to introduce to you Halma´s gender diversity leaders, Mr.Andrew Williams, Halma’s Group Chief Executive and Ms.Jennifer Ward as the Group Talent, Culture and Communications Director. Both Jennifer and Andrew have been recognised for their advocacy in this space. In 2020 Andrew Williams was included in the HERoes 50 Advocates List, as a women’s advocate. Jennifer was recognised in 2019 by the Financial Times as part of their Women in Engineering Awards for her influence in the industry.
According to the EWoB GDI 2020, UK is ranked Nr.3 out of 16 European countries included in the STOXX Europe 600. What are the key drivers of this success?
“Increasingly we are seeing not just governments but investors and society at large support and demand more of businesses when it comes to diversity. We have been an active member of the 30% Club since 2017. This is a membership organisation which campaigns for at least 30% of board seats on the FTSE 100 to be held by women. More recently, we have signed up to Change the Race Ratio, a campaign founded by the Confederation of British Industry to increase racial and ethnic participation in British businesses. Far-reaching initiatives like these, as well as the social movements that we are experiencing, have served to put diversity, equity and inclusion front and centre, not just in the UK but worldwide.”
When and how your organization became diverse? Is gender diversity something your company consciously aims for or do you see the change happening organically?
“As a global group we are inherently diverse, with companies in over 20 countries and end markets in over 100. However, we wanted to do more to increase diversity at every level of our business, as we know it’s a competitive advantage that will help us win. We began in earnest with Andrew Williams, Halma’s Group Chief Executive appointing Jennifer Ward as the first ever Group Talent, Culture and Communications Director in 2014. Since joining the Executive board, and then the plc Board in 2017, Jennifer has supported Andrew and his Executive team to champion diversity and make it a strategic imperative for the organisation. As a direct result of our commitment to interviewing more diverse candidates for senior roles, we have made significant progress. As an example, in 2014 our Executive team was all men. Today, over 50% of all our most senior leaders are women and Halma’s plc Board and Executive Boards will be 44% and 78% women, respectively, following our AGM in July 2021. In addition, we have recently appointed a woman as Chair. Women also make up 25% of Divisional Chief Executives roles, who run our portfolio of companies, and lead our acquisitions.”
How would you describe your company culture when it comes to diversity? What is your Gender & Diversity agenda? Do you have any gender diversity tools and measures in place?
“Diversity is a key driver of engagement at Halma and critical to our culture and our business. In fact, it is reflected in our latest employee engagement survey scores with 79% of employees remarking that Halma provides an inclusive culture where colleagues can be their authentic self. One of the ways we are enabling a culture of inclusion is giving employees the tools to think about their biases, defy stereotypes, have meaningful dialogue and create new behaviour habits. Our Accelerate Inclusion programme – a peer learning experience helps our employees practice small changes that can ultimately result in longer-lasting change.
We have gender and diversity goals at the board level which we hold ourselves accountable to. We have also set targets for all our company boards to be within a 40 – 60% gender balanced range. Most recently we were pleased to have achieved the Hampton-Alexander Review gender diversity targets for Executive management.”
What is the gender diversity impact on the decision making in your company? Are there any differences between management and leadership level?
“We strongly believe that diverse viewpoints on every team ensure we don’t miss a thing. That’s why we insist on diverse candidates for all senior roles, as we see how this benefits decision-making, which in turn drives performance and innovation. For the first time, we have a woman Chair, and all three of our Sector Chief Executive roles are held by women. We expect this to bring more points of view to the table and ensure we are paying attention to all the opportunities that could positively impact the performance of our business.
We believe that diversity, in general, fosters creativity, innovation, problem solving and better decision-making, all of which contribute directly to increased business performance. The diversification of our senior leaders has been achieved during a period of record growth and coincides with Halma’s entry into the FTSE 100 in 2017.”
Do you plan some further actions to support gender diversity short and long term?
“We are very proud of the progress we have achieved, but we recognise it’s just the start. Getting our leadership balanced at the top is the first step. We know we must also build a strong pipeline of female leadership at all levels of the organisation. We also appreciate that gender diversity is only one key element of a truly diverse organisation, and we are committed to doing more, particularly around improving representation of ethnic minorities in our senior leadership as well as in our Future Leaders Programme which aims to appoint new graduates to board positions of our companies within five years.”
What actions would you recommend to other companies to achieve gender diversity in decision-making?
“Start by cultivating the right mindset. Engage your employees and help them understand how this can benefit their business. You should also emphasise that this is a shared responsibility. Increasing diversity and inclusion is not just something the Board can do on its own, but requires active leadership and commitment from all levels of the organisation. The other important point is to engage and support your male colleagues. They are critical to increasing gender diversity, as male allies are needed to advocate for positive change and sustain it once progress is made.”
In the name of EWoB and its followers, thank you to Ms. Jennifer Ward and Mr. Andrew Williams for sharing their inspiring insights and valuable recommendations.
Congratulations, Halma, for scoring among top 10 out of STOXX 600 companies according to GDI 2020. It is an exceptional achievement!