HR & Management

Sky: Harnessing creativity by supercharging women in technology

6 min read

26 May 2016

Edging closer to its target for gender balance in the upper echelons of management, Sky is committed to developing and supporting its female executive pipeline through its Women in Leadership initiative.

In the run up to our annual First Women Awards, we’re once again opening up the vote for Business of the Year to the readership. The 2016 shortlist consists of five companies – Sky, A.T. Kearney, Dell, Sodexo and Unilever – which have been put under the microscope to unveil how each went beyond statutory requirements to develop a female workforce.

To make the ultimate decision easier, Real Business interviewed a senior decision maker at each company.

Almost 20 years since it transformed into a digital entertainment and telecommunications company Sky’s pan European operation now serves 21m customers and generates £11.3bn in revenue. This success, Sky credits to its people and to a culture that enables them to perform and fulfil their potential.

Shivani Uberoi, finance controller and head of the Women in Leadership initiative at Sky told Real Business that what underpins Sky’s effort to create a more diverse workforce is to ensure that its team represents its customers. However, the overarching factor is statistics that indicate that diverse business perform better, and Sky believes in better.

With its four core objectives to: level the playing field in recruitment for senior positions; to ‘supercharge’ its current female demographic with its Women in Leadership sponsorship and development programme; to secure the best talent and; to build its reputation, Sky is on a journey to sustain its success into the future. That future also involves helping talented women succeed.

Read our other four Business of the Year profiles:

With this in mind Sky has turned its attention to women in technology this year. Like other technology companies it struggles to achieve sufficient female representation in this department, compared to areas such as HR and legal, where it has a balanced gender ratio.

Have a look at the full First Women Awards 2016 shortlist

With this in mind Sky launched its Get into Tech programme in March 2016 with a mandate for women who are either looking for a career change or, potentially, are coming back from a career break.

“What we do is give them skills around coding, confidence, and interviews skills – especially for those women who are coming back to work. We recognise that they might need help for their softer skills,” explains Uberoi. “The scheme is quite flexible with full-time, part-time and evening courses. We’ve launched it with 60 places.”

Read on to find out Sky is part of an industry wide push to bolster female numbers in tech.


The programme is part of an industry wide agenda to improve the female pipeline in tech and it is not exclusive to female Sky employees. However, with more than 300 applications for the pilot, there is a clear demand for this channel and Sky is already looking into evolving the programme.

“Demand has been amazingly high,” Uberoi says, “And we now need to look into what additional courses we can offer.”

With such initiatives underway Uberoi is confident in the company’s ability to accomplish its 50/50 gender split in its top 400 leadership roles. Women already occupy a third of leadership positions Sky and the organisation is intent on surpassing these figures.

Moving forward, the focus for Sky will be to consolidate the system into something sustainable and embed it into the very fabric of its culture. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity.

Sky employee benefits include a subsidised onsite gym, parents Sky network for men and women, workshops for staff going on their first maternity leave, online health and beauty salon, as well as formal health life insurance and shared parental leave policies.

The challenge, Uberoi explains, is to cement our culture of ‘working smart’, where employees can utilise their workplace benefits and individuals in certain roles can work outside of a standard nine to five framework.

She says: “We’re building a culture around making it acceptable to work smartly and be output focussed, rather than on presenteeism.”

With offices in Germany and Italy, Sky intends to apply its knowledge from this process to its teams further afield and to a broader spectrum of diversity issues.

“We see the sponsorship and development programme as a short term solution but what we want to do is make it fit for purpose, make it a part of the way we work and the way we are, so we don’t need to run bespoke programmes for women.

“Ultimately, we want to be an organisation that is agile and flexible and doesn’t need a central initiative to be championing the cause.”