Women In Music Awards 2021: The Company Award - Diversity In The Workplace winners Warner Music UK

Women In Music Awards 2021: The Company Award - Diversity In The Workplace winners Warner Music UK

The Music Week Women In Music Awards returned for the first in-person event in two years to honour 12 incredible executives and artists, alongside the Roll Of Honour inductees. 

Staged in partnership with AIM and UK Music, with YouTube Music as headline sponsor, the ceremony took place at the London Hilton, Park Lane on Friday (October 22). 

This year, the Women In Music Awards 2021 Company Award: Diversity In The Workplace – supported by Spotify and judged by the UK Music Diversity Taskforce – went to Warner Music UK. 

Here, CEO Warner Music UK Tony Harlow and VP of People Team Erica Bone reflect on the initiatives the company has pursued during this year's extended judging period October 2019 to July 2021...

What does it mean to you to get this acknowledgement?
Erica Bone: “We’re obviously immensely proud of the recognition of all the hard work that we’ve put in place in the last three years. We feel very mindful that we still have a lot of work to do, that there's still a big journey ahead of us. While it's really important to take the time to make sure that we’re always on track to continue to drive change and put the action in place that we've laid out, it's just as important to pause along the way, take recognition, and thank the people that have helped us get to where we are today. So we’re really, really proud, really thankful, and I'm really pleased with all the hard work of everybody, of so many different groups of different people that it's taken us to get there along the way.”

Tony Harlow: “We know how much there is left to do, but it's a great chance to say thank you to the people who set us up and got it started.”

Warner UK hired Nina Bhagwat as head of inclusion & diversity back in early 2019. How significant was that appointment in terms of the company's commitment to making change and how much progress has been made?

EB: “I think it was significantly important. Hiring Nina was intrinsic to the process of getting us to where we are today, because we had already started steps around what we wanted to be doing around the DEI space [Diversity, Equity and Inclusion] – Nina accelerated it. [The appointment] allowed us a dedicated and specialist person in-house to look at what we needed to do, and what needed to happen. It was Nina’s work that encouraged us to engage with Caerus to start off the Lived Experience Project [In 2018 Warner Music UK partnered with independent external consultants to run confidential discussion groups with WMUK staff to establish what the challenges of life at the company are and what needs to change]. That really led us to start the work around our DEI report, which is the combination of the Lived Experience work, listening to our ERGs [Employee Resource Groups], setting our commitments, setting the actions, as well as the targets that are also in that report.And we have obviously hired Dr Maurice Stinnett, who's our global head of DEI, and we're very close to announcing our new DEI lead. So it was significant to hire Nina, she accelerated a lot of our work and really paved the way to where we are now.”

TH: “Everyone needs to understand that this is a skilled profession, and what Nina bought was a whole framework and rigour to the good intentions. And that's going to pay dividends all the way through the process that will inform our global efforts and allow us to really continue, because it won't be good intentions – we've got data, we’ve got goals, we've got targets. And we've got comparisons to other businesses. To do this you need a professional who gives it order.”

What initiatives are you most proud of?

TH: “Listening. That's what I'm most proud of.”

EB: “People understanding, at all levels across the business, the importance of the change that needs to happen, and being behind it. There's still much work to be done, but without them being onboard and backing it, we wouldn't be able [to do it]. People are getting it, they’re understanding the magnitude of what there is to do and how important it is.”

You mentioned Dr Maurice Stinnett’s work before. How does the UK operation work with Dr Stinnett in the US to implement initiatives at a global level? How important is the UK company's contribution to that agenda?

TH: “I think that courtesy of Max Lousada’s guidance, and some of the other executives, Erica, Mel [Fox] and Jo [Bartlett] before my time, we were quite a bit ahead in the UK. We have a very determined leadership team who are absolutely committed to progress, and we've organised ourselves in this rigorous way that Nina points us towards. That's a trailblazer for the global operation. And Maurice has been a fantastic supporter of us as trailblazers, while also checking that everything we do fits in with his agenda. He's definitely using us to make steps and progress that can inform other changes. Every market has different challenges. Obviously, the conversation is different in every place. But the UK is in a leadership position, and that's excellent. That's awesome for us. It’s a pressure, but it's awesome.”

EB: “To add an example to that, the Reciprocal Mentoring Pilot Programme that we launched [in May 2021] – we set that up the way that we hope to launch it globally in the future. So everything that we did along the way was with the mindset of, ‘How do we make sure that other territories and other parts of Warner Music Group benefit from the work that we've done?’”

By the end of 2025, Warner has set a target to increase female representation in the combined senior and executive positions to 50%. Do you feel the company is taking a lead with that target, and how confident are you of achieving it? 

EB: “We feel confident that we’re on track. The point of setting the targets was that we would put something in place that we could work towards. But we are keeping a close eye on it regularly. We have quarterly DEI meetings that are in place with the ERG groups to make sure we're held accountable to all parts of the report. So that's a real chance for myself and Tony to look at where we're at with the data and share it with them. We’re confident, to answer your question. Other companies are setting targets and I think it's a clear way of showing people that you are serious about change, and that you want to hold yourself accountable to what you're trying to work towards. I feel confident.”

TH: “We feel comfortable that after one year we're on target. Other statistics have variations, but we feel comfortable that we're on target. I'm totally determined that we'll get there.”

Will we be seeing changes in the months ahead in terms of appointments? 

EB: “The [aforementioned] DEI role is an important role in terms of continuing work that we've done in the UK. We want to make sure that they've got the right people and support resources around them, so there's definitely a plan in place that, once hired, we can support them with what they need to set themselves up. I don’t think there’s anything else in terms of, like, ‘Watch the space’ in terms of senior hires to make, we’ve made a lot of senior hires in the last 12 months. So much so that we were quite open in our report that we felt that that had had a slight negative impact on the 2021 numbers. You saw a really great progression on some of the progress we've made related to the pay gap, and then we've had a slight setback because we've made so many hires in the last 12 months, and a lot of that has been around committing to diversity at a senior level.”

TH: “We hire brilliant people. The people we've hired in the last months have been amazing, and we'll carry on doing that, I hope, on the way to hitting these targets. And we'll make other changes with internal people as well to make sure that we're on those targets. As Erica said, we're strengthening our DEI efforts, we're using the UK as a centre for developing Europe. So we'll be using even more qualified DEI experts. Going back to what you asked before, the issue is that we recognise that this is a really skilled profession. You really need clear guidance. I'm not sure that an internal appointment helps us that much. We've really found the value of expertise and the value of people who've seen many of the problems before, it’s helped drive us. I think it's important also to remember that we started way before the issues were controversial. A long time before me. It’s Max, and Mel [Fox] and Erica and Masha [Osherova] - they started this route a long time before. None of our appointments are about a year, they're about five years’ progress. Warner Music will get to these goals. And if we don't make it, people will know what happened. That’s why I would summarise my one thing as: we've become a very good listening organisation. I'm very proud of that.”

Erica, you were saying about how recent appointments you’ve made committing to diversity at a senior level has impacted 2021. Warner Music UK had made progress on its gender pay gap in this year’s WIM’s extended judging period [October 2019 to July 2021], although the figures reported (voluntarily) for 2021 showed a setback. What are the challenges with those metrics, and are you confident that long-term measures are in place?

EB: “The first challenge for me was people understanding that progress can't always be a line that goes down. It'd be nice if it was, but it just isn’t always the way. It's about people understanding where you've come from, where you are now, and being transparent about where you want to go. Tony and I are also really open to answering difficult questions from people, we don’t shy away from that. When we give people updates about changes that are going on in the organisation, and answering as many questions as possible during Town Halls, we don't shy away from difficult ones. To answer your question, it's about the bigger story, it's about the journey, it’s about being transparent and constantly helping to answer those difficult questions and not shying away from them, I think that shows people the positive intent of where we're at and where we're trying to get to in terms of change.”

TH: “We announced the figures [voluntarily] but we also had a Town Hall where people could ask questions, we demystified the language around mean and median. For example, we made sure that everyone understands exactly what we're talking about, answered questions about why years might dip and grow, and the roadmap. And by the way, Erica very kindly added me in – she listens all the time, but it's really all of our leadership group, our whole group of presidents, group of department heads, they're involved in it as well. So as their staff have questions, there are appropriate forums where a junior person might not feel good about coming to me, though they do frequently, I'm happy to say. But they might not, and we make sure that inside the organisation everyone's deep in this process, so they know what's going on, they know what the update will be, how we're going do it.”

How did the pandemic help to accelerate the culture shift in the workplace as you helped staff who were coping with childcare issues? What did Warner do to support those affected?

EB: “There’s two parts to that question, I’ll tackle the first question about the parents and caregivers. We launched a flexible working policy in 2020 at the start of the pandemic to give people clear guidance and a map of what they can do to leverage additional support around Warner Music. We’d spoken about it [before], we trialled flexible working with a part of the business, but we hadn't really got to the point of rolling out a framework, rolling out principles and giving people clarity about how to approach flexible working. And we did it quite quickly, we put that out there at the very start of the pandemic. When we went into the November/December/January lockdown, it got heightened, with people staying at home, it was more difficult. That was the time when we asked our parents and caregivers in the Employee Resource Group to tell us what they felt they needed. What is it that our community is discussing and saying they need in terms of Warner Music? To Tony’s point, we listened. They came to a senior management meeting and they shared the feedback and feelings. And they were very clear, they were saying they wanted to have more technology equipment at home to support the children in being able to do their work, while not trying to share their laptop with them."

What was the solution?

EB: "We got straight into motion – in about three weeks we turned this policy around in the UK, which involved redistributing and collecting laptops from all employees that might have had old laptop. We brought them into the company, we wiped them and cleaned them, and parents could come to the office and collect the equipment – or if they couldn't come in, we were sending them out. So that was the first point in terms of supporting people. The second is that people said, ‘We need a bit of financial support around tutoring, or tools or resources to help children’. So we set up an allowance; people didn't need to give a reason, if they asked we trusted them and set that up to let them have that access. We also introduced 10 extra days, for the parents and caregivers, on top of their annual leave, to take the time off. No explanation, they didn’t have to put in a reason why, if they were asking for it, we trusted they needed it, it was there. We also put into place coaching for parents who just needed a bit of one-on-one time supporting them through the process of what was going on and helping them get that balance, that was also readily available to people. We did a lot around mental health as well. We have two in-house coaches that are readily available and we relaunched our well-being package. It's all there, it's about really making sure people have got that in real time. So we put that together. It’s difficult because there isn’t necessarily that one thing that can fix people when they’re going through [difficult times] – it's different things for different people. But we felt the framework and the policy that we put out there in support with the Employee Resource Group was what helped people. We continue to look at, and in terms of flexible working, we're very much looking at the future of work, and what that means for Warner Music and making sure that we are staying on track.”

TH: “The important thing is to have powerful internal Employee Resource Groups. In every group I can think of an issue that came up this year. [There was] the terrible events around George Floyd and the realisation of what that means for our business in terms of how dependent we are on Black music and culture, and all of our Employment Resource Groups have had an issue this year which has galvanised them. Women at Warner have galvanised strongly around Sarah Everard, it moved everybody a lot. We had some individuals who knew her. All the different ERGs have had moments. We feel good that we've got a robust spine through the company that can raise those moments quickly, and then the leadership group has the wish to respond fast.”

EB: “We’d never acknowledged Children's Mental Health week, and this year for the first time we engaged in that as a company. We did a whole initiative for parents making different resources accessible, and giving parents a moment to really reflect and think about that. And we've never done that before.It was a really good piece of work.”

You launched a mentorship programme in June - how is that helping so far in terms of your diversity agenda?

EB: “With the mentoring agenda and idea, the employees themselves asked for it. It came up in the Lived Experience [programme] – people said, ‘This would help me.’ So not only is it a good way to help with the agenda, people were asking for it. So we responded to that. We kicked off the Reciprocal Mentoring pilot in June, it was a positive action that we wanted to set up for specific underrepresented group at Warner Music. We got people signed up, people applied for it and we got it set up and we’re almost at the end of a six month check-in. Interestingly, we're also running another programme, traditional mentoring, within our Link, which is our Employee Resource Group for Black Asian and ethnic minority employees. And they [set that up themselves] so we're supporting them, and we'll keep an eye on how that's going as well – it's good to see two programmes and how both are working. People need guidance and support throughout their careers, they need champions, they need someone they can turn to outside of their day-to-day manager to look to for support. I really think that by setting up both mentoring schemes we're helping pave the way for future talent - it is going to be helping bridge the gender pay gap, bridge the ethnicity pay gap, and really lead the way for the future of talent at Warner Music.”

In addition to sharing your Gender Pay Gap information, you are now internally sharing your Ethnicity Pay Gap data. What do you hope doing so will achieve?

TH: “Transparency.”

EB: “It's all very well saying how important it is to drive changes, see changes and make it happen, but putting your data out there is the most transparent way to say, ‘This is where we're at.’ And we've got, currently, a 90.2% participation rate of people declaring their data, which is robust – that’s statistically robust. We've still got a bit more to go to 100%, but that is people saying to us, with confidence, ‘Have my personal data, because it's really important that in return you share with us where you're at and where you're going.’ So Tony's point about transparency and accountability is key, it’s letting people know that we're serious about making changes.”

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