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Nurturing talent through gender diversity - Sarah Parsons, Director of Compliance

Category: testimonial, gender, Gender Equality, gender diversity, Staff Networks, Gender Balance, Staff Testimonial, gender bias, staff network group, gender network, gender and equality, gender in workplace, CityFibre


Sarah Parsons

At CityFibre, we want to nurture an accepting and inclusive culture for everyone, regardless of their background. We know that diversity of thought brings innovation and we want everyone to feel empowered to create an inclusive workplace and ensure that we all have a voice. That’s why we’re launching our new Employee Networks, to continue making CityFibre an organisation where everyone feels their opinion is important and valued.

Sarah, together with her colleague Anne Shannon, is heading up our new Gender Network, so we spoke to her about what she’s hoping to achieve and what makes a successful Employee Network.

Firstly, tell us about your background Sarah

I’ve been with CityFibre for just over two years. I started as Head of Compliance and we’ve grown the team from just two of us to over 20. I’ve previously worked with National Grid – a much larger organisation with far more red tape, so starting at CityFibre was very refreshing. In my spare time, I’ve volunteered with an organisation called Bridge Builders that supports underprivileged female school leavers and helps them find career opportunities. I’ve also worked with the Bright Network – a female-only network for Engineering and Construction.

What attracted you to CityFibre?

At our very core we are all striving for the same purpose. Everybody I speak to knows what it is. It binds everyone together. That attracted me from day one. The culture is very open and you can put your own stamp on things, which I like. Plus, the decision-making process here isn’t as bureaucratic as I’m used to, so it’s easier to get things done. You are trusted, and that is really important.

What makes you passionate about D&I?

It’s something I’ve always been passionate about, probably because I’m usually the only woman in the room, so I completely understand the fears and aspirations of young women wanting to enter our industry. I’ve also seen where these initiatives can go wrong, when corporate leaders start up these things without any real understanding of what it looks like on the ground. That’s why I believe it’s not just about focusing on women; it’s about gender. A network that’s for ‘women only’ compounds the problem, because then only women share and hear the stories. We need everyone to be involved. I think we have a real opportunity, particularly in our Delivery entity, to make a real impact. That’s where we’re hiring the most people and can make the biggest difference.

Why should CityFibre invest in gender diversity?

We need to hire 10,000 people to support our growth, but unless we have a broad pool of people to choose from, we’ll simply never find that many. That’s why it’s vital to look at the pipeline of talent that’s coming through from STEM. At the moment, it’s impossible to have all gender groups equally represented, because that pipeline just isn’t there. But we can look at college/university leavers and apprentices to start fostering the skills we need regardless of gender. We must think beyond the typical ‘construction persona’ of a middle-aged man. To succeed, we need to widen the net by taking the opportunity to train and upskill the right people to work in our industry – regardless of gender.

What makes a good Employee Network?

It’s about effectively representing people. You can shape and steer things, but ultimately it is about understanding the kind of people that we have across the business and what their aspirations are and then opening up opportunities for them. It’s not about blazing ahead, it’s about leading from behind and listening. It’s my job to really understand what the network wants and what the business needs. Armed with this we can develop initiatives that align with both. We also need to make it simple. We don’t want ten different initiatives. It’s better to focus on three or four that we can really make a success of. That’s where we’ll see the benefit.

What are you hoping to achieve?

We’re currently in the discovery phase, so we’re just working out what we want to do as a network and how we’re going to engage with the community. It would be great to introduce things like a role model network, mentoring between men and women, male advocacy and a parents’ returner programme. Beyond that, I’d like to focus on the broader STEM and early pipeline work to see how we can encourage more women into the business.

Sarah and Anne will be working together to lead the Gender Network. We’ll check in with them again soon to see what initiatives they’ve started and how they’re getting along.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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