Pauline Lewis has helped revolutionise the diversity credentials at Heathrow Airport.
She was responsible for implementing Heathrow’s first women’s network: Altitude- High Flying Women at Heathrow, which continues to grow in strength and has developed a framework for others to follow.
“Networks are critical to creating an inclusive culture,” she says. “It’s wonderful to just be able to share experiences, to know that you’re not by yourself and you have other people behind you. Also, it helps embed the inclusive agenda, but you have to make sure that all network groups are working together as part of a broader diversity strategy.”
There is growing evidence that organisations with engaged staff are more productive, more innovative and more successful. Pauline champions having a recruitment policy built on values and diversity that will bring talented people to your door, and make them want to stay.
From working for Bacardi – Martini in Paris, to pursuing an HR career, she has been committed to attracting diverse talent. “I attended an international school in Africa where you see a true melting pot of so many different nationalities and I grew up thinking it was the norm. That every single place in the world was like that. It was quite unusual to find anyone within our circles who hadn’t married outside of their own nationality or race.
“I love difference, I encourage it within my team. I believe that the world is a better place for all of our differences.”
Passionate about her work she truly loves people: “I read a lot about our conscious and unconscious bias, why we think what we do, what makes us different and I get that every day working in HR and seeing how people function. I’m responsible not just for external recruitment coming in but also internal moves and promotions. As a people person I love building relationships. I have a broad network of people that I’m really proud of.”
Today’s global workforce is unrecognisable from a generation ago. There are more women in the workplace, more ethnic minorities on boards, and more CEOs open about their sexuality with diversity driving better innovation.
Pauline has witnessed the change over the last 20 years, observing that companies have gained a much better understanding of the benefits of diversity and creating a more inclusive culture but feels there is still a long way to go: “At Heathrow we are at the start of our journey, but we have great executive sponsorship in our CEO who is fully behind our strategy. The best high performing teams I have seen are those that have got the broadest diversity mix.”
Looking to the future she says, “What inspires me and gives me hope is the youth of today. My children, and their friends, are so accepting of different cultures, nationalities and every kind of difference. That makes me think the world will become a better place because our children are more accepting and tolerant than my generation ever were.”