News & Events

Friday 27 May, 2016

Making Choices

Sometimes the most important choices you make can be tracked back to a moment in time; a wonderful moment of clarity – the ‘aha’ moment. From there, a spiral of actions, discussions and ultimately decisions flow, and it was a moment like this that inspired our first CCE Women’s networking breakfast held at the Royal Institute of Architects on Friday 13th May.

I’ve been leading the GB Women’s network at CCE for three years now alongside a team of trusted, capable and highly energised women. We’ve had a lot of success, but as we started to look forward, I had a moment of blinding realisation about the choices we make when it comes to our careers

“You don’t have the real conversation regarding how you feel about work, career, life and ambition in the workplace. It happens with your trusted friends, family and colleagues informally.  You then sanitise it, at best, and share the watered down, non-sensitive version in the workplace, or worse still, you bury it in the box entitled “personal” and then put the “work” head back on and pretend it didn’t happen, until the next time.”

I don’t know if you relate to this, but every women who I have spoken to totally agrees and identifies with it.  However, we had some questions.  How common is this? Do all women feel the same way? Do men feel the same? Is there a benefit to the organisation of knowing what’s in women’s minds?

We had already made the decision to take our internal Women’s Network at CCE external, but based on that moment of clarity, and the knowledge that we’re likely missing out on arguably women’s most valuable feedback,. We made a choice to listen to a hunch and see if there was more going on.

Ahead of the first external GB Women’s networking breakfast, we set about conducting one-to-one interviews with 50 of our senior women across the organisation using a third party to host the discussions and the feedback.  We talked to them about what was on their mind. No structure, just a conversation.

The results from that research have been so valuable and enriching.  Women really opened up and shared their hopes, fears, what it’s like to work in a business like CCE, how authentic they are able to be, as well as the impact of the culture and environment on them.

So what did those powerful conversations uncover? In summary, the five key outtakes were:

  1. There needs to be a balance between gender diversity and positive action
  2. There is anxiety around authenticity vs organisational culture
  3. There is a big difference between masculine and feminine traits which is not well understood, and has a huge impact on gender culture
  4. There is huge power and potential in women helping other women
  5. We need to define the role of flexibility in helping to balance work, career and life

We then used that research to fuel the discussion at the breakfast. Whilst running through the findings, we asked our audience to dig deep, and reflect where they felt they were within their careers and organisations. The audience of 200 (96% female) have already started to share their feedback and the comments have been overwhelmingly positive.

The research resonated, the atmosphere was great but most importantly our guest speaker - Jo Malone MBE - really struck a chord with everyone in the room.  She spoke from the heart about her life story so far. It’s not for me to tell her tale, but there was everything in her story from heartbreak to laughter, from pain and rejection to optimism and reward, it’s a story that says it all (and I’m sure it will when she releases her book later in the year).  Our audience were captivated and their questions came thick and fast and Jo openly and candidly answered them, there was no corporate polish overlaid on them, just real from the heart views. 

So what next? Well there is definitely an opportunity to share more externally and internally, and at CCE we are well placed to host these sort of events in a truly collaborative way.  From what emerged as a result, we have been able to identify five key themes which CCE and other organisations will need to consider as we strive for a more diverse workforce.  A workforce that feels they can make a choice.  It also uncovered a new, rich vein of feedback to allow us to enhance our diversity and inclusion strategy at CCE to ensure we stay progressive and innovative as an employer of choice for our key talent.

As a next step, we will be building the findings into our diversity and inclusion strategy to make our business a better place to work for all of our people.  Most importantly, we have the opportunity to continue to share our journey with other companies as we progress. We need to be generous in our learnings and be prepared to keep searching for the real conversations that lie below the surface, that’s the only way to make change happen.

We would love to hear your thoughts on what the research has begun to uncover, so please let us know by tweeting us @CokeCCE, or join the conversation at #MakingChoices

Caroline Cater

Director, Operational Marketing


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