A new network across Oxford University Press aims to tackle the issues that women face – from goal-setting to dresses with pockets. On International Women’s Day, Women’s Network founder Cassie Jane Buckley explains why such an initiative is so important.
- What is the OUP Women’s Network?
The OUP Women’s Network is an employee-led initiative that facilitates the career progression of women within OUP. It is a global network that gives branches the ownership and opportunity to shape their own programs, made up of speaker sessions, workshops and networking opportunities – all with the aim of delivering personal and professional development for women.
- How did it come about?
When I joined OUP in July 2018, I was thrilled to see I had joined an organisation that paid real attention to the conversation around diversity and inclusion. Not long after arriving, I was invited to a Pitching Session with my new team. Our objective was to present ideas for new projects or initiatives we could introduce to the organisation. This is when I proposed setting up a Women’s Network to facilitate the career progression of women within OUP. It ticked a lot of organisational objectives and fell well in line with our Diversity and Inclusion goals and so it was met with great enthusiasm. Once approved, I met and spoke to as many women I could to hear what they would want from a network like this, and from there I shaped the current program for 2019. We officially launched in November 2018.
- What has been the response? Has anything surprised you?
The network would not be what it is if it wasn’t for the immediate support I received from my colleagues. When I first proposed the initiative, I thought it would only amount to a program of monthly lunches and the occasional Yammer [an internal communications forum used at OUP] debate. Of course I wanted more, but after only being at the company for only a short while, I never imagined I would be given the opportunity to organise anything more than that. I was initially quite cautious with the ideas I presented, not wanting to push my luck, yet I was only ever met with enthusiasm and then encouraged and supported to think bigger. This support came from all levels of management, male and female
- Why is a Women’s Network important?
I think this ties in well with the theme of this International Women’s Day – #balanceforbetter. Primarily, we want to ensure that women have every opportunity and capability to achieve their goals and own their success, but it goes beyond that. For me, it’s about showing society that the benefits of what we’re trying to achieve won’t just be for women, but for everyone. There is an endless amount of research that outlines how important diversity is for organisations and societies, but I think it’s our responsibility to prove it.
- What issues has/will the Women’s Network address? Are they primarily professional issues, or also personal? I know that pockets in skirts was something that members were quite passionate about!
The pockets conversation was absolutely brilliant, and I was personally invested!! The reason why I loved that post so much was because it was exactly the tone and level of comfort I wanted for the network. The Women’s Network will address whatever the women of OUP want to address. The current program for 2019 has been entirely shaped from suggestions and ideas brought forward by other people. It will, primarily, be within the context of professional development, but from what I’ve heard from others, the professional and personal lives of women are often very intertwined, so if we can help in making both sides easier, I think that would be brilliant.
- I’ve heard it will be extending around the world – what is happening at the moment?
So far we have been focusing on our global launches. We did not want this to be an Oxford-centric initiative so we pushed for international inclusion from the start. When we launched in the UK, we had launches in Brazil, Pakistan and India in the same week, with New York joining us the week after. These events were designed to kick off the conversations to find out what the women in these branches were looking for in a network, the results of which have now gone on to shape their individual programs, of which they have full ownership. My main focus on a global level is encouraging and supporting other branches to start their own networks.
In the UK, we have already had two events; a goal-setting workshop for those looking to make some concrete Career New Year’s Resolutions and a panel event focused on the benefits of mentoring. We look forward to our future events on the topics of Networking, Unconscious Bias and Negotiation Skills. We have also started an OUP Women’s Network Book Club, focusing on career-development titles.
- What would you like to see happening as a result of the Women’s Network in the future?
Quite simply, I want to see every branch have their own program. I want our Yammer group to be exploding with cross-cultural sharing of resources and debates… and loads of selfies from events! I teared up when I saw it launched in Pakistan.