Women at TNO (W@T) network

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Description of Issues and Targets
The network has been established in 2011 in order to support the selection, retention, and promotion of female employees within TNO and draw attention to gender diversity issues.

Description of Offer/ Action
In the past, gender diversity topics did not receive much attention. The topic itself has not been a comfortable subject to have a discussion about. There was a feeling that this was an outdated topic, something that the organisation has already achieved and that it was unnecessary to bring this topic about within our organisation. However, looking at the numbers of men and women working at the organisation, and especially looking at the distribution at the top levels of the organisation, it was apparent that actions to support gender diversity were needed. Creating a safe space for discussing gender-related issues and empowering female employees in their career progress has been the leading motivation behind the network. An important aspect of this is the connection between the network and the diversity steering committee. The diversity agenda of TNO is influenced via participation in the diversity steering committee of the TNO, a body that reports directly to the board of directors. In the steering committee meetings, gender diversity issues are discussed, and topics such as acquisition, retention and, progression of female employees are often on the agenda, resulting in concrete actions within the organization to tackle the issues discussed.

This connection facilitates communication about diversity between the top and the bottom of the organisation, as such making sure that problems on the floor are addressed by the actions taken by the steering committee.

Implementation Approach
W@T is a network of female employees that organises workshops and training sessions as well as informal get-together events for female employees, influences the diversity agenda via the diversity steering committee and maintains an active internal chat group (closed to only female employees). W@T assists in the organisation and promotion of two women in leadership trainings. The aim of these yearly trainings is to strengthen the women’s leadership potential and work on empowering them in taking their next career step. At least one to two extra workshops are organised yearly on topics such as influencing strategies or negotiation techniques. Social network events such as New Year’s drinks, lunch or dinner events are also organised by the W@T network.

The internal chat group is a closed group for female employees where information about events and news related to gender diversity is spread, but it is also a place where interesting articles on gender diversity are shared, and challenges,as well as experiences between the members of the group, are discussed.

Formal Requirements
Having a formal structure in which such a network is embedded is an important precondition for success, as it gives the activities of W@T legitimacy, and helps bring about change both at the top level of the organisation as well as the workforce itself. Having financial means (i.e. budget) to organise activities is equally relevant. And last but not least, the board of W@T, consisting of highly motivated individuals being the driver behind the network is important to mention.

Results and Modes of Action
There are many members of the internal chat group; more than half of the women at TNO are subscribed to it. W@T helps to promote the female leadership training events, which as a result of this promotion are always full.

Success Criteria and Possible Obstacles
See formal requirements.

The ease at which people discuss the topic is also strongly related to the public debate. The resistance in the organisation has decreased much in the last 5 years, which also seems to be related to diversity being higher on the agenda in the public debate.

This Offer is Part of the Category
Gender-sensitive organization culture
Career promotion for women