Bank of Ireland; using Diversity and Inclusion to drive hiring policies

From having their own Employee Support Groups for gender, race, lgbt, disability and other advocacy groups, to having received the prestigious ‘Disability Smart’ accreditation from the Business Disability Forum, Bank of Ireland work with a range of outside organisations such as Ahead, Pride or The Open Doors Initiative which is one of the market leaders in Diveristy and Inclusion in Ireland today

  1. What’s your background, what did you do before you joined the company or joined your current role?

Zoe: I joined Bank of Ireland five years ago on the HR graduate programme. Before joining the Inclusion and Diversity team, I worked across many teams in HR including: Recruitment, Transformation and Optimisation, Organisation Effectiveness, and Culture. I also partnered with different parts of the business as a HR Advisor.

Jennifer: I have an interesting I&D path! My background is in STEM (both science and technology).  I joined Bank of Ireland in 2018 as part of Group Internal Audit, leading the group technology and security internal audit team. Prior to Bank of Ireland, I’ve worked in various international financial services organisations. I’ve held roles in biotechnology research, information technology and security operations, Data Analytics and Internal Audit.

  1. Why did you take the job? Why did you feel you were the best person?

Zoe: I am the Inclusion and Diversity Advisor for the Bank. It’s a fast-paced and challenging role but it’s equally rewarding and I love my job! Equality, Diversity and Inclusion are areas I have always been passionate about and it’s an area I’ve decided to dedicate my career to. Both my Bachelors in Social Science and Masters in Human Resources had a strong focus on gender equality, race and ethnicity, traditional roles, human rights, social welfare models, and social justice. I keep up to date with developments in EDI, activism, and society through reading, watching, listening, and social media.

Jennifer: I am the Group Inclusion and Diversity Lead for Bank of Ireland. Inclusion and Diversity has always been very important to me throughout my career. Within Bank of Ireland, I’ve been involved in our colleague I&D network, as co-chair of the Multi-Cultural Pillar. This network is run by colleagues on a voluntary biases for colleagues.

I’m currently covering this role for the wonderful Kate Butler on a secondment basis. I’m really appreciative of the opportunity to move to a role in an area I’m very passionate about and have been involved in a voluntary basis to date.

  1. What are the main objectives of Bank of Ireland in the area of Diversity and Inclusion this year?

A key objective for us this year is reaching 50:50 gender balance in senior appointments across the Bank. We also want to understand the diversity profile and needs of our workforce so we can use this as the basis for our strategy. Another priority for us this year is to develop our Ethnic Minority talent pipeline.

  1. What are some of the internal programs you have in place to reach those objectives?

Progress against our 50:50 gender target is supported by our female talent development programmes, we regularly report, real-time recruitment data, divisional working groups and our Recruitment Charter. We’ve introduced a confidential platform on our HR system where colleagues can input their demographic information to help us understand the diversity and needs of our workforce. Our Ethnic Minority talent development programme launched in December 2020 to help us develop a diverse talent pipeline for future roles.

  1. What were some of your proudest moments since taking the job?

Zoe: For me, one of the proudest moments was receiving feedback from colleagues across the organisation after we set up an internal ‘Menopause Hub’ on our intranet which has a number of supports for colleagues. We also ran two webinars and offered free 1:1 consultations for colleagues with a specialist menopause clinic.  We received so many personal emails from colleagues thanking us and it felt amazing to have made such a difference.

Another recent proud moment for me was when the Bank received ‘Disability Smart’ accreditation from the Business Disability Forum. Teams came together to improve accessibility across the Bank, which took almost three years of work. We are the first Irish organisation on the island of Ireland to receive this accreditation which is something I’m really proud of.

Jennifer: I’m pretty new to the role, I started in February 2021. However, as Zoe mentions earning the Banks Disability Smart’ accreditation was a really proud moment. Also in 2020, we signed the UK Race at Work Charter and adopted the framework across all Bank of Ireland jurisdictions. We are continuing work in this area with DCU and planning for the upcoming launch of Toolkit for Race Equality in Hiring.

  1. Are you working with any external companies in Ireland to improve your Diversity and Inclusion?

We partner with a number of external companies to provide work placements, supports and training to colleagues, including: BelongTo, AHEAD, Specialisterne, Family Carers Ireland, Carers UK, 30% Club Ireland, Business Disability Forum, and the Open Doors Initiative.

  1. What are some of the best events (pre-covid-19) in the area of Diversity and Inclusion you’ve been to or held?

Zoe: I had the pleasure of being on the Bank of Ireland float at Dublin Pride 2018. It was such a happy, colourful day and everyone was in high spirits. The energy was unmatched! In November 2018, we hosted the 30% club meeting ‘Investing in our Own Careers’. We were really fortunate to have an exact replica of ‘The Fearless Girl’ from Wall Street at the event which attracted a large number of attendees and led to some amazing photo shoots and conversation.

Jennifer: Yes, Pride 2018 was pretty spectacular. Also in 2019, we launched “Begin, Thrive, Cook”, a Bank of Ireland Multicultural Recipe collection which was a huge success. The recipes and accompanying personal stories were inspiring.

8. Where can people find out more about your Diversity and Inclusion initiatives?

You can find out ore about the I&D programs on our careers page or on our LinkedIn page. We also have lots of information on not only our I&D programs, but other organisations and start-ups involved in the I&D field on our sub brand ThinkBusiness.ie

9. Are there any other largest companies or organisations doing things you admire in Diversity and Inclusion?

Zoe: Vodafone is a company I really admire. They are doing lots of things in the Diversity and Inclusion space. In 2019, they published a Domestic Violence policy and shared their learnings publicly to enable people and companies to benefit from it at a larger scale. Bank of Ireland recently won ‘Champion Diversity Strategy’ at the HR Champions and was named as joint winners with Vodafone, something I was really proud of!

Jennifer: Prior to Bank of Ireland, I worked in MetLife. It’s a large global organisation where a diverse workforce and culture of inclusion is integral to everyday business and how MetLife serves its customers. It’s interesting to see what large, diverse global organisations are doing in the I&D space

10. Who are some of your favourite people in Diversity and Inclusion in Ireland today?

Zoe: Sinead Burke is an Irish writer, business woman, podcaster academic, and disability activist who I really admire. I’ve met Sinead in person a couple of times and have seen her speak at many events. In addition to having amazing fashion sense, Sinead regularly shows how clothes can be more accessible for everyone. In January, she shared a post about adaptive fashion design on Instagram. I have T1 Diabetes and wear an insulin pump which means there are some clothes I simply ‘can’t wear’ or are more hassle than they’re worth.

Sinead’s post showed designs from NCAD students which included a coat with detachable sleeves, adjustable length, and stimming pockets which is amazing to see! Sinead always shares an image description under her posts on social media, which is something I’ve started doing when I send emails with images. Sometimes something as simple as taking two minutes to write an image description can include so many more people in the conversation, which is what inclusion is all about.

Jennifer: Furkan Karayel is an award winning inclusive leadership advisor and CEO Diversein.com with a background in software engineering. Furkan is an associate lecturer for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Master’s program at Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology.  Her passion is leveraging women-in-tech leadership, diversity and empowering female founders globally. Furkan’s motto is “Discover, Share and Inspire”

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