Leadership development for women – By Dave Gunner co-editor of Ruby, the Virgin Atlantic Blog
Training – it might sound dry, but it’s one of the most exciting, important things we do here at Virgin Atlantic. It’s about developing our people into the best they can be, whatever their role at the airline. Giving them the tools to do a great job, to look after our customers and each other, and to work towards our goal of being the UK’s most loved travel company.
One of the training courses we’ve started to offer is called Springboard. It’s a personal and professional development programme, designed and delivered by women for women. It gives women at Virgin Atlantic the skills and confidence to make meaningful changes and improvements in their careers and their personal lives.
Why do we need Springboard?
For a number of mostly historic reasons, the airline industry has a poor record on gender pay. It’s a significant missed opportunity for us and something we’re determined to put right. It’s going to take time, but everyone in the company is committed to addressing this imbalance and we have an ambition to have a 50:50 gender mix within our leader population by 2020.
Springboard is about developing some of those leaders from the women within our airline who may not have realised their own full potential. That’s a fantastically exciting prospect and the job of delivering it falls to our Head of Performance and Development, Myra Cooke, and Talent Management Consultant Jen Breach. Both are incredibly passionate about the programme and excited about the journey they’re taking the candidates on.
“We realised more than 80% of our women were at lower grades here at Virgin Atlantic,” said Myra. “Springboard is about creating a fairer distribution and helping women at lower levels to be more confident and take control.”
Jen first realised how powerful the programme was in a previous job. “I saw the big change it brought to the community and to the company,” she said. “After enrolling I got first-hand experience of the life-changing effect it could have. Springboard gave me the confidence to move into a management role. After moving to Virgin Atlantic, I knew it would work really well here.”
Photo: Jen & Myra
The course consists of four workshops and a workbook and looks at:
- How to assess your own strengths and weaknesses
- How to assess the business world around you
- How to establish core values and set goals
- Where to find support and information
- How to be more assertive
- How to manage stress
- How to create and implement action plans
- How to create a positive impression.
Myra and Jen are both full of enthusiasm about the development programme. “Looking back at our first course, it’s amazing what we’ve achieved in a short space of time,” said Myra. “This isn’t a traditional training programme. It’s more of a network and a space where women can share their experiences and learn together.”
“It’s contagious” says Myra “It makes me realise why I went into training in the first place. Everyone is open and honest, but really positive. We work through things together. We set goals, share practical experiences and have inspirational guest speakers, including female leaders from within the company who come and share their stories.”
“This isn’t just about work,” said Jen. “It’s a whole holistic programme that can be applied to home life as well. It builds assertiveness and confidence and is fully supported by our leadership team.”
Photo: Carol Woodley
Fresh off the first course we asked Carol Woodley, our Senior Manager – Service Delivery, IT Services how she got on.
“I can’t shout out enough about Springboard! The content was invaluable and particularly as a representative of an older demographic it’s so important to believe the company invests in me and values my experience,” said Carol. “It’s difficult to convey how such a small investment of my time has had such a huge positive impact on my work, my morale and my performance. Since completing the programme I’ve secured a promotion and am ready to mentor the next generation to grow our own talent pool.
The next Springboard courses are starting this month and we can’t wait to see where it leads.