‘International Women’s Day’ – What does it mean to us?

Published on
7 March 2024

On 8 March 2024, International Women’s Day (IWD) called on the world to champion a tomorrow where women feel valued, empowered, and actively included, leading with the theme – ‘Inspire Inclusion’.

At The Cumberland, we’re proud of our progress towards becoming a more inclusive workspace and a place where our people truly belong. You’ll regularly hear us talk about ‘Kinder Banking’, about the importance of our people, real people, that are the fabric of everything we do and stand for. This applies to our colleagues, as well as our customers.

Inspiring Inclusion

To understand the action of ‘inspiring inclusion’, we first need to consider what it means. Joanne Leslie, a Team Leader in our Customer Care Team summed up what it meant to her: “To support all women and girls to believe they belong and can succeed in any environment. Embracing neurodiversity and seeing vulnerability as a superpower not a weakness.”

Progress Being Made

Our own journey consists of many inspiring stories of female leadership and innovation. We have embraced a number of policies and initiatives to increase the diversity of our workforce, and representation at the highest levels of the organisation.

  • Female representation at our Board and Executive Level has increased from 19 per cent in October 2018 to 50 per cent in 2024.
  • Family-friendly and flexible working practices have been adopted and encouraged throughout. The Cumberland has successfully implemented hybrid working and a more pragmatic approach to part-time or flexible working at all levels.
  • The company encourages wellbeing practices and has recently held its annual ‘Wellbeing Day’, taking in subjects as diverse as mental health, stress relief and physical fitness.
  • Abbie Curzon, a People Coordinator, recently spearheaded and delivered our ‘Neurodiversity Toolkit’ launch and continues to develop this.
  • Our ‘Mental Health Champions’ are spread throughout the organisation.
  • Initiatives such as our menopause group provide specific support.

Continuing To Push

Although the recent pandemic made widespread changes to working practices, flexibility remains an important issue for female employees. Sarah Gill, Head of Change, works part time at The Cumberland: “As a part time female employee, inclusion is very important to me, I want to feel included and not held back by my decision to balance work and family commitments. My boss has been excellent at accommodating this ensuring that key meetings are moved so I don't miss out.”

When we asked our colleagues to comment on the significance of IWD, many expressed a similar opinion to Beth Smith, Trainee Legal Counsel, expressing a need to continue looking forward: “I think IWD is really important, because it provides an opportunity to really celebrate the work and achievements of women and girls, as well as recognise and reflect on the challenges that still exist around the world for women from all backgrounds.”

Anne Hodgson, Intermediary Business Development Manager agreed: “International Women's Day is a great opportunity to not only look back on what we have achieved on inclusion and equality to date but also to focus on what the future holds and how we can support each other to play a part in this continued positive change.”

In Their Own Words

Many more of our colleagues, from varying positions around the business, were keen to share their stories and tell us exactly what International Women’s Day meant to them:

Ali Elliott, Assistant Cluster Manager: “IWD inspires other women to aim high and have gender equality in the workplace - to feel empowered as a woman and be given equal rights and opportunities in the workplace.”

Alice Jackson, IT Service Assurance Lead: “Working for an organisation which has strong female leaders is really inspiring, the culture has evolved to a place where you are supported and valued. Now we see our senior managers talking about being vulnerable at work which makes it feel easier to be yourself and know that you will be valued and be included.”

Jowita Zarebska, Finance Analyst: “Inspiring inclusion is a theme deeply close to my heart. Being a young woman and working in the banking sector can seem very intimidating, and challenging. From day one, my team have been nothing but so encouraging and supportive, which has helped me develop, not only professionally but also personally.”

Louise Cape, Project Manager: “Since joining the testing team in 2014 I always aimed to be a Project Manager, this was my focus for over 3 years and everything I did at work was to help me achieve this dream. In 2017 I became a Trainee Project Manager, and in 2018 I achieved my goal of becoming a fully qualified Project Manager.”

A Kinder Future

International Women’s Day is more than just a day to stop and celebrate. It’s a page marker, a reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go.

By acknowledging progress, confronting challenges, and continuing to change, we can build a future where women from diverse backgrounds are able to reach their full potential.

At The Cumberland we see International Women’s Day as a motivator to achieving our own goals of inspiring inclusion. Goals of championing diversity, breaking down barriers, and building an inclusive future for all.

‘Kinder banking’ is an inclusive aim, and it’s in everything we do.