Opportunity Now award goes to MoD police agency chief Wendy Benson

Police and Guarding Agency chief superintendent Wendy Benson scooped the Champion Award at the Opportunity Now Awards in London last night.

Employers who demonstrated the most commitment and innovation in creating workplaces where women can succeed were honoured at a glitzy awards ceremony in London, attended by more than 500 business and public sector leaders.

Benson played an instrumental leadership role in promoting gender equality and diversity within her organisation, according to the judges.

She championed women’s issues, acted as a mentor and role model, and ensured practical considerations such as women’s patrol boots and smaller motorcycles were introduced.

The other award winners were:

  • Female FTSE 100 Award: Sainsbury’s

This was given to the FTSE 100 organisation with the most women on its board. While the average proportion of women on the board at FTSE 100 companies is just 11%, at Sainsbury’s 30% of board are female.

  • FTSE Executive Women Award: Lloyds TSB

This was given to the FTSE 100 organisation with the most women on its executive committee. While women make up only 3.6% of executive appointments in the FTSE 100, bank Lloyds TSB has an executive committee with 44% women.

  • Abbey Award: Inspiring the Workforce of the Future: British Gas

This award was given to British Gas for its work in developing a more diverse engineering workforce. The energy firm has committed to increasing ethnic minority and women engineers to 10% of its overall engineering workforce by 2010. Part of this drive has involved promoting engineering to young people in innovative ways, such as boosting the profile of engineering through titles such as teen magazines Sugar and Bliss.

  • Advancing Women in Business Award: Addleshaw Goddard

This award was given to law firm Addleshaw Goddard for the work it has done to embed a culture supporting flexibility. It identified that losing staff who wished for more flexibility could cost it up to £200,000 per person, and invested significantly in technology and in promoting the business benefits of making flexibility a reality.

  • Advancing Women in Public Service Award: Omagh District Council

The local authority secured this award for its ‘WRAPS’ programme (Women Redress Advancement in the Public Sector), a two-year project that focused on the personal, professional and business and development of women across three public sector organisations in Omagh.

  • Diverse Women Award: West Midlands Police

This award was given to West Midlands Police for the work it has done to recruit diverse police officers to its specialist teams, such as dog handlers, air operations and fire arm officers. Its work in this area has involved surveying all women in the organisation, an external audit of team dynamics, open days, buddy schemes and promotion of flexible working.

In her keynote speech, Val Gooding, chief executive of private healthcare provider Bupa, said: “When I started my career there were no women managers, let alone senior managers. I’m pleased to see more and more women coming through businesses and achieving and thriving in top jobs, but we are still nowhere near a critical mass.

“Organisations that create workplaces where women can succeed and thrive are fundamentally better places for all,” Gooding said.

The panel of independent judges included Personnel Today editor Dawn Spalding.

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