HeForShe: Chris Stylianou | COO, UK & Ireland, Sky

Chris Stylianou was appointed Chief Operating Officer, UK and Ireland, in March 2016, expanding his previous role – Managing Director of Sky’s Customer Service Group – which he has held since August 2011.

He is responsible for Sky’s sales and service operations (including contact centres, digital capability, in-home service and retail division), as well as property and data departments, Sky Business and OTT services in Europe. Chris was previously joint Deputy Managing Director, Customer Group, and before that Deputy CFO. He joined Sky in January 1996 from KPMG where he was a senior manager in the Media practice.

Why do you support the HeForShe campaign?

I’ve spent my life surrounded by women, having two daughters and being brought up by a passionate Greek-Cypriot mum – and consider myself a far better person for it.

But it’s even within my working life that I can remember a time when there were very few women around the senior table, if any at all. And when no conscious effort was made to progress women’s careers despite obvious differences like taking time off to have children or baring more of the burden with elder care, for example.

I don’t want that for my daughters.

I don’t see why they should have any less opportunity than my son.  Instead what I’m striving for are workplaces that seek out, develop and reward their talent, recognise their needs and views, and support them at every stage of their careers regardless of gender or diverse background.

From a business perspective, it’s really quite simple – I believe that we will be a more successful, sustainable and better business if we have an equal gender balance, and have seen first-hand the benefits that gender, and broader, diversity brings.

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?

When it comes to achieving gender parity, both men and women need to be engaged in the conversation – at work or otherwise. Getting male allies on board with gender-based workplace programmes can have a huge impact on the success of such initiatives, and help to eliminate the idea that it’s not men’s problem.

It’s also a case of simple maths.  Given we have more men at the top of organisations who hold the power to make positive change, it is incumbent on them to lead from the front for us to have any chance of making a difference.

So, for me, it’s not just important, it’s essential for men to show their support and get involved – everyone can benefit from a more diverse workforce, and through engaging men in the gender debate as well as empowering women, these benefits will be clear to all.

How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?

The key word here is ‘equality’. We’re all welcome – in fact, we should be encouraged through every means possible – to join the gender equality conversation. It’s not a choice; as I’ve said, it’s a matter of necessity for me.

Do you think groups/networks that include the words “women in…” or “females in…” make men feel like gender equality isn’t really their problem or something they need to help with?

Gender equality – or inequality – is everyone’s problem. If we had achieved equality, there would be no need to set these networks up at all. But the truth is, and the statistics show, that we haven’t, therefore it’s important for businesses to have groups and networks in place – gender-related or otherwise – that encourage employee engagement and a culture of inclusion.

What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?

My advice would be to firstly get the CEO involved and to set complete gender diversity as a business objective, which makes it everyone’s responsibility to deliver. Personally I would keep the ambition simple and focus on real, pragmatic plans to deliver. And also talk about it openly and promote it.

As a Male Agent of Change, I’ve seen first-hand the importance of making the business case for achieving gender parity, and the impact that this can have on getting male employees on board.

To make this case effectively, businesses first need to recognise barriers in their way to encouraging a sense of inclusion. For example, making it clear that men are not invited to join the debate just so they can be blamed for gender inequality issues.

Overall, it’s important to show how gender diversity makes an organisation a better place for everyone to work. It helps companies reach new customers and widen their talent pool, which brings fresh ideas and diverse skillsets.

Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?

At Sky we run a Sponsorship and Development scheme as a key part of our Women in Leadership (WiL) programme – mentoring is central to this. As Executive sponsor of WiL, I sponsor a number of women.

This scheme was initially for women in our top 500 and has recently been extended to our middle management layer.

It involves the allocation of an Executive or Director-level sponsor to each participant on the programme, whose role is to advocate on their behalf; help build their network and profile; and identify new career opportunities within the business.

It also gives participants access to a range of personal and professional development sessions. In addition, regular ‘speed networking’ events help participants to build their senior network.

Have you noticed any difference in mentoring women – for example, are women less likely to put themselves forward for jobs that are out of their comfort zones or are women less likely to identify senior roles that they would be suited for?

Research has shown that women are less likely to network and self-promote. It also shows that women will not put themselves forward for a job unless they think can do almost all of the tasks outlined in the job description, compared to men where this is far from the case.

As part of our sponsorship programme, we work together to identify opportunities that our women may not have considered previously and we also make a conscious effort to promote our female talent as and when suitable roles become available.

But the work doesn’t stop there – we continue to drive momentum through a ‘Pay It Forward’ scheme which involves participants becoming sponsors themselves and nominating other high potential females to form the next wave of the programme.

I believe sponsoring and managing your female talent well is absolutely key to gender diversity.

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