Santander's Women In Business Network and senior leaders celebrate talented women

IWD Best Practice Winners

Santander's Women In Business Network has over 3,000 members across the organisation. For International Women's Day, the Network gained sponsorship and buy-in from a host of senior leaders from the very top to advocate and encourage celebration of an IWD event that was fluid, engaging and inclusive of Santander's 24,000 employees across several functions, disciplines, areas and channels. It was important for the company that everyone had the choice and ability to be involved. 

Santander IWD

Santander's mission for International Women's Day was to create a day celebrating and hearing from successful women from every level of the organisation, and to gain valuable insight from senior leaders on how they are pledging to create balance in every area of the work Santander does. The company wanted to showcase talent at all levels and provide insights and tools for others to create balance in their own lives, have the courage to challenge when it's needed and inspire everyone to do and be the very best they could.

As a Women In Business Network, Santander wanted its colleagues to leave every event knowing more than they did when they arrived, whether this was practical help and support through workshops, technological tools to help create greater “life balance” or whether this was the emotional tools to challenge when something didn’t feel right and help build confidence in their decisions.

Santander even garnered support of other networks, for example its Ethnicity@Work and the Embrace (LGBT) Network, to help show the benefits of balance across the broad spectrum of individuals Santander has in its organisation.

Showing the benefits of balance at Santander

In Santander's head office sites, larger events were hosted across the entire week of IWD, with key note speeches from Board level female Executive and Non Executive Directors, talking about their past, their challenges and the lessons they’ve learnt. Santander also hosted panel discussions with Executive Committee members including other colleagues with a broad range of backgrounds.

But Santander's IWD activity also injected an element of straight forward fun that saw their contact centre enjoy a pogo-stick challenge, competing to create different balance poses.

Hosting practical workshops supporting the bank's women

As well as attending talks, employees could get involved in practical workshops, giving them tools to create greater balance, a greater understanding of recruitment and how to “know” when you’re ready to progress and workshops on Santander's newly embraced “Agile” way of working.

Santander's workshop about adopting agile ways of working and how this can help you balance your workload and priorities, were incredibly popular. The “agile methods” are something new to the organisation and is often deemed as complex. Santander's workshops helped to demystify this topic, whilst also giving practical lessons in the benefits of balance – at work, in the teams people build and in life.

Santander wanted to do something different with the workshops it hosted, which were unlike previous more traditional ‘speaker and audience’ TYPE events. These workshops were practical, innovative and hosted entirely by internal talent from across the business. Santander used the opportunity to embrace and showcase new technology and ways of working.

The company recognises IT and Innovation is an area under represented by women across many sectors, so the company used some of its amazing women in technology to not just give the lessons of what is available, but to show what could be done.

The “best practice” lesson Santander took from these workshops is that across the organisation Santander has tremendously talented women in areas that women are generally under represented. Hosting practical workshops that gave real lessons to apply to the day job, whilst also hearing from role models, and giving people opportunities for better quality networking is something that Santander wants to replicate in events to come.

Santander International Women's Day

A video conference with Santander's Group CEO

The true testimony to the focus this day received was the final part of the day where Santander's Group CEO (Ana Botin) hosted a video conference with Women Networks across the globe to hear what everyone is doing to help create greater gender balance, and to hear about how everyone celebrated and embrace the #BalanceforBetter campaign message internationally.

Adopting different techniques and new ways of working

As well as embracing the theme of the day, Santander also adopted different techniques and new ways of working and wanted to encourage women to show off their skills that the company doesn't always get the chance to see. Santander had “note-sketching” at its main London event, capturing the details of the discussion in an engaging and insightful pictorial version of notes. Not only was this approach different to other corporate events held but it gave opportunities for talent to be shown in a new environment.

Collective, company-wide support for IWD theme

Across Santander's head office events in different sites across the country, IWD was heavily branded in presentations, work areas, and the main stage at its London event. Santander took the opportunity to make sure everyone left the events feeling enabled and empowered. IWD selfie-cards were distributed across sites, branches and contact centres, and photos of people pledging their support for #BalanceforBetter were hosted on its Women In Business community site for everyone to see. Santander filmed its main event in London, sharing the bite-size videos of the discussions and speeches, which were made available for all  24,000 employees to view – encouraging everyone to share in the day.

The company was proud to see its customer facing colleagues in its branch network and contact centres take to the challenge and show their support for the messages that came out of the day. Colleagues wore purple, painted their hair and nails, decorated their areas of work with #BalanceforBetter resources and everyone enjoyed striking the #BalanceforBetter pose to commit and pledge their ongoing support to make this a message to take forward and embed.

Santander even saw examples of purple decorated Chip & PIN Machines in its branches, which led to colleagues talking to customers about why women's equality  was important to them.

Recognising the impact of women on people's lives

At the heart of Santander's IWD event was the celebration of its women. Santander asked colleagues to submit stories on women who inspire them, and the company asked its male colleagues to tell them which women in their life inspire them and why. Santander received some incredible, inspirational and heart-warming stories from so many people who took the time to recognise colleagues, families or friends for their achievements and the impact these women had on their lives and the lives of others.


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