Sky's Group Chief Marketing, Corporate Affairs and People Officer, Debbie Klein's speech at the Women in Business Expo

Wednesday 16 October 2019

It’s great to be speaking to the Women in Business Expo today.

This event shows the momentum building behind the idea of inclusion in the workplace – I see it at Sky every day, where so many of our conversations benefit massively from including different perspectives.

Lots of you probably know Sky, and I could talk about us all day. But instead, I want to show you a quick video that describes who we are…

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At Sky, I am responsible for people, brand and communications. 

That’s all our people activities for our 31,000 members of staff across 7 countries. And it’s also my job to make sure we communicate our brand effectively with our 24 million customers and the many more who are interested in Sky.

I couldn’t do a job like that without making diversity and inclusion a top priority.

Because I can only make sure we have the best people in our business if we recruit the talent from every background.

And we can only connect with our customers if the way we communicate reflects the diversity of the societies we are communicating with.

Now, I don’t want to claim that we have all of that sorted. We are on a journey.

At Sky, just under 40% of our leadership positions are occupied by women.

That’s better than it was a few years ago, and better than the UK average, but our goal is for that number to be 50%.

In 2018 and 2019, we exceeded our target of 20% individuals with BAME background for on-screen roles and are close to that number for writers as well; but we want to go further.

We want to take action to help address imbalances that already exist in society. Like how attractive technology and engineering careers are to women.

Engineering courses attract five men for every woman. I have a cousin who is studying civil engineering at Edinburgh who told me she wears a t shirt on campus that reads ‘yes. I’m an engineer. Now can we move on please.’

It’s a similar story in technology. We conducted research that found only 20% of 16-18-year-old girls will be advised to consider a career in technology, compared to 45% of boys.

That’s why we have a Women in Tech scholarship programme which encourages bright young women in tech from around the country to become role models by funding them and their ideas.

We’re also working with local schools on a coding course to incorporate into their curriculum and sending our inspirational women into schools to talk about careers in STEM.

At Sky, we really care about our impact in the community, and in society.

Today I want to say a little bit about why this matters to us at Sky, tell you a bit more about our journey and what else we can all do to move things forward.

I’d like to talk today about three important aspects:

   That these changes are not just right for business, they are good for business.

   That diversity is a start, but the key to unlocking business value goes further: it is inclusion.

       And finally, how we can all play a role in making that shift happen.

Let’s start with the first one: why diversity is good for business.

In a way this is obvious. It shouldn’t really need saying.

The facts show that diverse companies are more profitable, and more appealing to work for.

Talent is distributed across society. Men, women. Working class, middle class. All races and creeds.

If a company shuts out any of those groups, they are shutting out talent they can’t afford to lose.

We cannot win the war for talent if we only draw from a small pool.  So diversity in recruitment is a business imperative.

But as a broadcaster, diversity is not just about the talent we have off screen. It matters on screen too.

We challenge stereotypes and show the role of women.

Many of our leading talents at Sky News are women, such as Beth Rigby, our political editor.

Alex Scott played 140 times for England, and can explain football as well as anyone, so it was a no brainer to bring her into the Sky Sports Studio. And I hope you’re all voting for her on Strictly.

Our content teams have curated a collection of stories with diverse role models. And, when we develop, produce and fund original drama through our new creative home, Sky Studios, we think hard about how to make sure they reflect the importance of diversity.

Take Chernobyl.

We are incredibly proud of this show.

For people who haven’t seen it, it is a drama that tells the story of how the Chernobyl nuclear disaster happened; and how the secrets that made that disaster possible were unravelled.

A key part of that latter story is the role of women.

If you’ve seen the show, you know the character who is most committed to exposing the truth is a woman: Ulana Khomyuk.

The show is painstaking in its devotion to truth, but it is also a piece of narrative TV and so the writer needed to make some choices that made the story work on television. And one of those stories was the creation of Khomyuk.

Because one little known fact is that the nuclear science community in the Soviet Union included many, many women in senior roles.

And so, when the writer of the show needed to condense that community into a single person, he felt he owed it to all those women to make sure they were represented too.

So hers was a composite character that represented the women scientists who were there, who haven’t been represented in the past.  

And the result? Emily Watson was nominated for an Emmy for her performance as Khomyuk. And Chernobyl is the highest rated show on IMDB of all time.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a show that pays attention to gender is one of our most successful shows.

And that doesn’t just matter to us because it is right. It is also good for business. Shows like Chernobyl are increasingly why people choose to subscribe to Sky.

Content that resonates with society is the heart of who we are and what we need to be.

And that is not just true for us.

If you want to reach a younger customer base, diversity matters even more. Audiences under 35 care even more about these issues, especially when it comes to choosing their employers.

A recent research study found that 47% of millennials say they are actively looking for diversity and inclusion programmes in their prospective workplaces. 

The importance of inclusion

The second point I want to make is that it is not just about getting diverse groups of people through the door.

It is about inclusion – that is, empowering them once they are inside.

Inclusion is not an abstract concept.

It is about taking steps so everyone can actually play a part. Make their voice heard. Feel welcome, whoever they are. Someone once said to me that diversity is being invited to the party, and inclusion is being asked to dance.

If you find you have systems inside your business that systematically disadvantage people on any basis other than their performance in their job, you need to think about how to fix them so that everyone is being asked to dance.

It’s about how the entire culture of the company operates.

It’s about how everyone is treated.

It’s as important at board level as it is as entry level.

At board level, I’ve seen inclusion lead directly to better decisions simply because there are differing opinions that make people think ‘ah I’d never seen it like that before’ . A diverse group that is listened to is far more likely to challenge group think and approach problems from multiple angles.

We recently launched our ‘Step Up, Speak Up’ commitment.

We asked ALL Sky employees, not just those with ‘diverse’ backgrounds, to be mindful of diversity, yes, but also to tell us what we could change.

To tell us how to include them.

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We also operate six employee networks focusing on broad topics like diversity and work-life balance, spanning thousands of employees, that give our employees a voice in company culture and company direction. They’re grassroots, self-started, and self-run.

It’s inclusion in action – they allow everyone to have their say, on every issue that matters to them.
And these networks go right to the top , and all have executive level sponsors – at Sky, we’re listening and acting on what our employees tell us we should be doing.

So, when our network told us we needed to look at our paternity leave policy we listened.

Part of the reason the gender pay gap exists is because there is a huge gap between the parental leave rights of men and women. As a result, women are more likely to leave the workplace when they have children, and that has knock on effects for their careers.

The only way to address that is to ensure we have strong parental leave rights for women, but also for men.

So, at Sky we tripled paid paternity leave to six weeks, plus another six weeks unpaid within the first year of a new child – for all employees.

And the result? Over 600 men at our Osterley campus alone have taken advantage of the programme just in 2019.

Of course, inclusion is not just about activity that works for everyone. Sometimes, it means providing additional support for groups who would otherwise risk being marginalised:

We work with organisations like MAMA Youth to give media training to young people from underprivileged backgrounds.

Our women-only Get into Tech programme is a free 16-week software coding course for women with little or no technical experience.

Over 190 women have completed the course – with over 50 being directly hired by Sky.


But we can always do more.

And that’s the final point I want to make today.

We are miles away from where we should be as a society.

There are structural things that can only be addressed through public policy and cultural change.

I started my career in 1990 when to be a senior woman in business you had to behave a lot like a man, and yes, there were a lot of shoulderpads around. As I got more and more senior, I was more and more in the minority in the room. And I promised myself that I would do whatever I could to ensure that when my daughter, who is now 15, came into the workplace, that she didn’t look around and wonder why she was in the minority.

So I feel optimistic about the changes we are already seeing. And believe that there are plenty of day to day things we can do to make a difference ourselves, in our own way, whether as a business leader or a colleague or citizen.

I’d like to finish by telling you the most important things that I think we can all do to make a difference. I hold twice weekly ‘coaching power half hour’ sessions where people can come and talk to me about anything – other than their love life and to get fashion advice. Often the topics we touch on are about how they can move their careers on by making themselves feel that they are truly part of the culture and fabric of Sky. We sometimes get into talking about our values and how to live them.

There are three things I think make a massive difference which I tell anyone at Sky who I discuss this topic with:

The first is ‘Don’t walk on by’.. Everyone is responsible for making sure that policies and values don’t just live on a PowerPoint or wall mural. If they aren’t being lived up to, then it’s not someone else’s problem to call it out. It’s yours.

The second is ‘Be brave - as we saw in the video, don't follow the heard, this is essential. Call out behaviour even if you're the only one in the room. Sometimes it is just too easy not to say anything. But we each have a duty of care to resist that temptation

The third is 'Be the change you want to see'. Be a role model. Especially at a senior level, you can have a real impact on those below you who look at their role models and follow their behaviours. Going out of your way to be inclusive will ensure that others feel it’s natural to do the same. It is a virtuous circle.

Inclusion helps you, helps people around you, helps your company, helps your society.
We can all play a role in making that change happen.

Thank you.