How TrustFord is supporting its Leading Ladies, By Sharon Ashcroft, HR Director, TrustFord

The Inspiring e-zine recently had the pleasure of catching up with Sharon Ashcroft, Group HR Director at TrustFord and HR Director Game Changer of the Year at the Automotive 30% Club’s Inspiring Automotive Women Awards 2020. 

Sharon takes action to drive improvements in gender balance within Trustford and has been instrumental in making their business inclusive and diverse, with women now making up 30% of the leadership team. In this article, Sharon tells us more about how TrustFord supports their ‘Leading Ladies’ through a network for female colleagues, at all levels across the group.

“In line with our ambition to be an employer of choice, we’ve been making a renewed effort to ensure TrustFord improves its gender balance and is more inclusive to all members of society.

We still have a long way to go on our journey but I’m really proud of the progress we’ve made. This has included plans for D&I training, making improvements to our recruitment resources and processes, a review of our policies to ensure all colleagues are treated fairly and a new development programme to support the growth of ambitious colleagues.

Another area for improvement we identified was a need for increased support, particularly for the female colleagues within our Group. 

The result was Leading Ladies, and I hope that sharing my experiences of this exciting and hugely rewarding project so far will help you and your organisation along your own diversity and inclusion journey…

What is Leading Ladies?

Put simply, Leading Ladies is a support network that any female TrustFord colleagues can join – we currently have 60 members, incorporating women in a variety of roles at all levels across the group.

We arrange quarterly virtual calls to collectively discuss achievements, members’ development, opportunities, work concerns or anything else that’s important to our members.

Day-to-day we also have a Leading Ladies private group chat on our colleague app. This is a really helpful sounding board for our colleagues to get advice, share knowledge or even let off some steam! It’s a melting pot of positivity, shared emotions, experiences and journeys that is a pleasure to check in on every day.

Why is it important?

In a male-dominated workplace we all know it can be easy for some women to feel intimidated or alone. Some colleagues do not have a female colleague to speak to day-to-day.

Leading Ladies is a supportive, empowering and safe space where our female colleagues can discuss issues they may not feel comfortable talking to men about. It also reinforces to our members that other supportive, knowledgeable women are out there in our business who are keen to build connections and help them. 

Colleagues have already shared how the group has boosted their confidence and encouraged them to look for development opportunities, describing it as ‘a great forum to support each other and ask burning questions in a safe environment’.

The next steps

It’s been great and very rewarding to see colleagues connecting with each other through Leading Ladies, but in March we decided to formalise that with a mentoring scheme.

We offered 8 of our Leading Ladies the opportunity to be mentored by female senior managers within the group.

Through a series of 1-2-1 meetings the mentors will discuss what is stopping their colleague achieving their ambitions, reflecting on their own experiences and offering support and guidance to help them on that journey. I’m really excited to see the positive impact of the mentoring scheme in the weeks and months ahead.

We’re also planning a podcast in which Leading Ladies members will discuss the group and our efforts to be a more inclusive employer. Shared both internally, externally and as a crucial element in our recruitment strategy, we hope the podcast will inform current and prospective colleagues about our efforts to support female colleagues within our business. 

We’d love to hear about more networks, helping to support women and drive gender balance and inclusivity throughout the automotive sector.  We’re interested in knowing how these networks can help to benefit your employees, or how future networks could help to further implement increased diversity and inclusion into the sector?  

Share your thoughts with us on social media or get in touch with nicola@automotive30club.co.uk to join our Automotive 30% Club Inspiring Super Network today.   

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