Case study

Think, Act, Report: Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Group

Focused Women’s Network

RBS recognises that having improved gender balance at all levels of the organisation enables better understanding of, and responsiveness to, our diverse client base and helps promote diversity of thinking across the organisation.

The RBS Focused Women’s Network (FWN) was launched in 2007 to support the group in actively attracting, developing and retaining talented women at RBS.

This initiative has proved to be very successful, and in 2012 a dedicated FWN coordinator was appointed and a significant budget for the network was established to further support the organisation’s aim to achieve gender balance in senior positions.

In the last 3 years, the FWN has grown from 2,000 to 6,000 members across 31 countries. This includes 300 male members who recognise the value that a diverse team can bring to the business.

Issue to be resolved

In 2011, our internal monitoring mechanisms confirmed that although 54% of employees across our organisation are female, men currently hold 82% of executive positions and 73% of senior management positions at RBS.

From this, it was recognised within the business that a dedicated framework aimed at providing tools to advance women’s careers would be of real benefit to the organisation.

Action taken

The FWN has 4 key areas of focus. Events and initiatives are held in relation to each of these themes - see examples below. These events are open to all RBS employees, both men and women, at all levels of seniority, and are facilitated by both internal and external experts.

Personal development events

In the past 12 months, the FWN has delivered about 100 workshops globally, covering a variety of subjects including:

  • confidence building
  • leadership skills
  • internal interview skills
  • networking skills
  • creating a personal brand
  • transitioning to flexible working
  • managing promotion/career change
  • preparing for redundancy

Networking, mentoring and role models

Internal networking opportunities are offered globally and aim to:

  • unite employees from different business areas and divisions and increase collaboration amongst colleagues

  • help individuals gain access to senior leaders and increase their own visibility within RBS

FWN offers and supports external networking opportunities in partnership with women’s networks at other top corporates and professional women’s organisations (eg Women in Banking and Finance, and We are the City), which aim to:

  • create new business opportunities for RBS
  • connect current and potential customers with opportunities for growth
  • share knowledge and contribute to the success of the members of other women’s groups

Corporate social responsibility

  • FWN empowers employees to give back to their local communities, and has raised more than £150,000 for charities to date

  • FWN supports numerous charities including the Breast Cancer Campaign, Everyman Campaign, Sickle Cell Society, British Association for Adoption and Fostering, Action on Addiction and Eaves

Focused Women’s Week

The network’s annual conference, held each March for the past 5 years to celebrate International Women’s Day, has evolved into a week of events that raise the profile of gender diversity issues.

  • Focused Women’s Week gives RBS staff the opportunity for open dialogue with senior leaders
  • Focused Women’s Week includes a client event offering customers the opportunity to network, take part in open dialogue with senior leaders, share their own inspirational stories, and most importantly, create b2b opportunities.

High-profile participants have included:

  • RBS Chairman Sir Philip Hampton
  • RBS Group CEO Stephen Hester
  • RBS Group HR Director Elaine Arden
  • RBS CEO of Markets and International Banking John Hourican.

In addition to these events and initiatives, earlier this year RBS appointed a dedicated FWN Co-ordinator, supported by a significant budget. This will continue to support the organisation’s aim to achieve gender balance in senior positions.


All the programmed activity, initiatives and events have supported RBS achieve the following results:

  • over the last 5 years the number of women in executive positions and senior management roles continues to increase. 25% (3 out of 12) of our board members are female: this compares to an all male board in 2008
  • there are currently 6,000 Focused Women members in 31 countries
  • since its inception, the network has raised over £150,000 for charity
  • in 2012, the FWN was instrumental in setting up the Women’s Interbank Networking Group (WING) in Hong Kong, in which 13 banks now participate
  • the, Chair and founder of FWN, achieved a prestigious place in The International Alliance for Women (TIAW) World of Difference 2012 awards. The TIAW 100 Awards recognise amazing individuals whose efforts have advanced the economic empowerment of women locally, regionally or worldwide
  • earlier this year, the Focused Women’s Academy was launched as a portal for employees to easily access events, information and learning tools that will help their development
  • through the sheer size of its membership, FWN is a powerful voice for change and influence at RBS and has raised the profile of the need for gender balance across the organisation

Next steps

Despite the success of the FWN, RBS aims and plans continue to evolve and develop. Some specific examples include:

  • establish a regional FWN committee in India during early 2013
  • offer a broader range and higher number of events, both face to face and virtual
  • target to increase global membership from 6,000 to 10,000
  • secure a senior executive representative from each division for the FWN global committee
  • create an advisory board comprised of a mixture of internal and external experts.
  • hardwire the FWN objectives of committee volunteers into their appraisals to motivate and re-energise the committee

Any other information

RBS is supportive of the recommendations of Lord Davies’ report and recognises the importance of women having greater representation at key decision making points in organisations, particularly in the banking industry.

The diversity agenda remains a key priority for RBS, who are committed to supporting women to reach their full potential through a combination of leadership development programmes and events, the introduction and encouragement of supportive policies, and the utilisation and strengthening of internal and external networks.

RBS is committed to working with clients and other organisations to achieve better gender balance, recognising the expected improvements in business performance.

Published 4 November 2014