Case study

Think, Act, Report: Standard Life

Driving improvements in Diversity and Inclusion

In Standard Life we recognise the value which a diversity of talent brings – for our business and ultimately our customers. We know we benefit from a diverse make-up in its widest sense and within the context of an overall balance of skills, backgrounds, knowledge and experience. Our Board is focussed on driving continued diversity progress and appreciate gender diversity is an important part of this. A number of initiatives are underway to support improvements in our gender diversity. We’re seeing tangible results, but we know there is still much to do.

Issue to be resolved

We identified, through customer and employee data (including pay), that more focus was needed to improve the diversity of our internal leadership and talent populations, to ensure we’re representative of our geographical, customer and employee markets. We also recognised that we could do more to create an inclusive environment where all employees flourished.

Action taken

We carried out a number of actions specifically intended to improve gender diversity, including:

  • Introduced a Women’s Development Network - now two years old and already supporting over 400 women to focus on stretching development to form a stronger pipeline into future leadership
  • Expanded our individualised development coaching and mentoring for women in our leadership and talent pipeline
  • Agreed to only work with executive search partners who have signed up to our diversity requirements to stimulate more diversity in our attraction approaches
  • Launched a curriculum developing Board experience in our female talent to prepare them to take up Non-Executive Director roles
  • Audited our policies and processes from a diversity perspective and changed our maternity and adoption experience, introduced carer’s leave, and changed our foster care guidelines
  • Paid specific attention to resourcing decisions and nominations to talent programmes through unconscious bias training


  • Awarded ‘Highly Commended’ in the ‘Outstanding Employee Network’ category at European Diversity Awards 2013 one year after set-up
  • The group employee engagement survey measured perceptions about diversity and inclusion. 80% of employees scored this question favourably - 6% more than other organisations in the Financial Services norm and 4% more than the high performing norm
  • Our Board, Executive Team and Nomination and Governance Committee regularly review our internal talent and succession strength and consider diversity in these discussions
  • The gender balance in our Board and talent pipelines has increased at each level. 20% of our Board, 33% of our pipeline just below Executive level and 44% just below senior manager level, are now female
  • The engagement and enablement levels reported by women who are members of our women’s network are 6% higher than women who are not members
  • 57% of our Executive population now hold Outside Appointments in a variety of organisations
  • 97% of women in our network are having quality development conversations with their teams and manager and 73% have a more stretching perspective on their development

Next Steps

We will continue to support our women’s network, including introduction of maternity coaching, expanding our development coaching and refreshing mentoring.

We will also embed diversity into talent and succession conversations at all levels of the organisation and build capability of managers to identify bias and have career conversations which recognise individual needs.

Further preparatory board development for women is planned, hosted by our Board member and we will pilot a sponsorship approach for our female talent and expand internationally and across other diverse groups.

We are also looking to increase the use of technology to support engagement across our networks and maximise the possible benefits from the introduction of Shared Parental Leave legislation to help foster a family-flexible culture.

Published 4 November 2014