Pregnant then Screwed: Fostering gender diversity

As we navigate the complex landscape of modern business, the need for gender diversity in senior leadership roles becomes increasingly evident. It’s not just a matter of moral and societal concern; it’s strategically imperative. By increasing the number of women in C-Suite and senior leadership positions, businesses benefit from increased profitability, innovation, and attraction of top talent through increased reputation and improved social standing, as well as improving engagement and job satisfaction for all employees through enhanced leadership capabilities. Recognising this, Total Media embarked on a journey to drive change and create a more inclusive workplace culture.

Gender diversity in senior leadership

At the heart of gender inequality in senior leadership lies the Motherhood Penalty. It accounts for a staggering 80% of the gender pay gap, forcing many women to exit the workforce prematurely and cut their career advancement short due to limited childcare and ineffective flexible working options. We acknowledge the detrimental impact of this trend, not only on individual careers but also on the wider economy, and as a result, made a commitment to evaluate and optimise our policies, work culture, and pathways to leadership to support women to progress to the top.

Over the past three years, Total Media’s employee-led DEI council has been instrumental in driving change within gender diversity. We take pride in our industry-leading maternity and paternity policies, complemented by coaching through Executive Coaching Consultancy (ECC) to aid the transition back to work after parenthood and funding to support mothers to join the mentoring network, Bloom. Alongside this, the creation of our own ‘TM Tots’ initiative developed by our employee-led parents community group, encourages the mutual empathy and understanding of both parents and non-parents alike.

However, we knew that alongside the traditional avenues to attract, retain, support and nurture women in all stages of their career, more targeted efforts were needed. In 2023, our attention shifted towards women’s health and family policies, aiming to nurture a pipeline of talent progressing towards our senior roles. We recognised the crucial role these policies play in fostering gender diversity and inclusivity within our business.

Pregnant Then Screwed: Empowered Foundations

As a woman, a mother, a HR professional, and currently (very) pregnant, I thought I was pretty clued up about all things women’s health, and the huge impact that the life transition of motherhood and the subsequent return to work can have. However, the last year has shown me how much we all must learn, and un-learn. With all this considered, we applied for one of only 50 places on the new pilot training accreditation scheme ‘Empowered Foundations’ from Pregnant Then Screwed and were delighted to be accepted.

Funded by the Department of Health and Social Care, the scheme enabled us to understand how to best support key aspects of pregnancy and fertility at work, with in-depth training on:

  • Pregnancy at work
  • Fertility at work
  • Pregnancy loss
  • Implementing flexible working
  • Hybrid working
  • Eliminating bias

All our managers and senior leadership team attended this training, followed by collaborative workshops at the end of each module to ensure a collective understanding and commitment to supporting key aspects of employee well-being. In these workshops, we discussed the material covered and spoke candidly about our own lived experiences both as parents and non-parents, examining the challenges we faced and uncovering the areas where we could improve.

Practice make progress

The training sessions sparked rich conversations and insights, leading to tangible policy changes within Total Media. New initiatives such as the Menstrual Policy and an Abortion Policy were introduced, and the language of current policies was reviewed to ensure inclusivity based on input from employees and a genuine desire to support all members of the workforce.

An example of this is how we’ve evolved our Fertility Policy, following what we learned from the PTS sessions. Undergoing fertility treatment can often be incorrectly framed as a difficult process couples have to go through in order to conceive. However, for many same-sex couples and single parents, starting fertility treatments can be an exciting, positive step toward building a family. So, we flipped the script of our policy to make it more inclusive. Now, it’s there to support all communities on their journey to parenthood.

Moreover, we leaned on the experiences of our employees to drive the direction of the support they needed. Our employee-led parents community group were instrumental in the onboarding of a new nursery benefits scheme allowing parents to offset their childcare fees through their salary. Similarly, when reviewing the standard practice of offering just 6 extra days of paid leave for employees dealing with conditions like Endometriosis, it became evident that this fell short considering that symptoms often occur monthly.

The benefits of these changes extended beyond gender diversity, fostering inclusivity agency-wide. For example, a workshop conversation around boundaries for pregnant women led to some sharing of occasions when uncomfortable conversations around alcohol consumption had occurred. The introduction of an Alcohol and Drugs policy not only supports women throughout the early days of pregnancy but also all other employees who may not drink alcohol for a variety of other reasons. Adopting an intersectional lens ensures that when we are talking about women, we also engage with the DEI councils’ other subgroups to represent marginalised groups who experience disproportionate disadvantages.

Looking ahead

So, with our line managers upskilled and our policies tightened, what is next? How do we truly create a culture that encourages the sharing of lived experiences? The feedback from the Pregnant Then Screwed training alone has been overwhelmingly positive, underscoring the importance of inclusivity at Total Media and how supporting parents and those planning to start a family is deemed imperative. Conversations following the workshops have been extremely uplifting, with women sharing how they now feel confident in discussing their family plans with line managers and how this factors into their succession planning.

We will now roll out the training modules to all our employees annually to continually embed the learnings and drive home education and commitment in this space. Our commitment to creating a culture of psychological safety has paved the way for open discussions around bias, stigma, and discrimination, driving progress towards greater inclusivity. By embracing uncomfortable conversations and acknowledging that perfection is not the goal, Total Media aims to create an environment where women are not limited in their career aspirations.

Becca Rawlings - Head of People, Culture & Business

Author: Becca Rawlings - Head of People, Culture & Business

Becca heads up the People, Culture team alongside the IT, front of house and office management functions. She oversees our DE&I council as well as leading the agency People strategy which aims to deliver a happy and purposeful company. Away from the office, Becca juggles a far too energetic two-year-old and two community projects within mental health and disability awareness.