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Putting people first and promoting gender equality in the sector

Kelly Howell, Chief People Officer, Aria Care

When Aria Care was formed in December 2022, our new CEO Caroline Roberts, was very clear that she wanted to build an organisation that puts people first and champions equal opportunity.

According to the latest report from Skills for Care, men make up almost a third (31%) of senior leadership roles within the social care sector in the UK, despite only accounting for 19% of the overall workforce. This signals that there is more work to be done within our industry to achieve gender equality and ensure women are empowered to progress in their careers.

We are pleased that our Executive Team has a balanced representation with 50% females holding Executive positions. Our Senior Leadership team has 75% female representation and includes myself, as Chief People Officer, as well as Caroline Roberts, CEO, and Ruth Yates, Managing Director of Operations. We have all taken active steps to create an inclusive organisation that supports our female workforce and effectively reduces the gender pay gap.

One of our priorities has been to create real opportunities for progression for Aria Care’s colleagues and tackle the misconceptions about what a career in social care looks like. The frequent undervaluing of social care is one of the factors that creates gender inequalities in the industry, and we are challenging this by investing in career and personal development for all our colleagues and creating new pathways to make social care a more exciting and attractive career. For example, in February 2024 we launched our first Leadership Programme, ‘Inspiring Leaders’, where nine of the twelve delegates are female. We will also soon be launching our Emerging Leaders program to offer further opportunity for development and progression. We are working with colleges and schools to raise awareness of the opportunities that the social care sector can offer.

Additionally, we have also taken a number of initiatives to promote and empower employees at all levels, such as our recognition schemes, Hearts of Gold and ‘Living Our Values Everyday’, where, each month, home managers, colleagues, and residents can nominate outstanding colleagues who have gone above and beyond in order to celebrate their hard work.

Creating rewarding careers and improving retention can have a truly transformational impact within an organisation, creating opportunities for progression at all levels, which positively impacts gender equality, ensuring female colleagues can rise through the ranks and reach senior positions. This is perfectly illustrated by Ruth, as well as reflecting my own experiences at Aria Care. We have both been promoted internally to reach our positions in the senior leadership team.

At Aria Care, we always want to lead by example, and have become a Living Wage employer, alongside improving our pay rates and benefits, to ensure our people-first approach is also translated into remuneration. As such, we are glad that our gender pay gap is significantly lower than the UK average, at 2.3% across the organisation (compared to 8.3% UK median average).

As a high-profile female leader in the business, and alongside my colleagues in the senior leadership team, we have also worked to maintain our visibility within Aria Care’s communities, and we all have a regular presence at roadshows and within the homes, to directly speak with and hear from all our colleagues and further empower everyone to have their say in how the organisation is run.

Promoting gender equality is only one aspect of creating an open and transparent business where everyone feels included. Empowering female colleagues goes hand in hand with driving a culture that celebrates diversity and inclusivity.  At Aria Care, we are extremely proud to have a diverse workforce and we actively recognise and celebrate different cultures and traditions that enables us to share stories and learn others’ experiences so that we can understand and appreciate other cultures. We strongly believe in being ‘One Team’ and irrespective of background, gender, beliefs we all come together to deliver our collective vision to be the best care provider in the UK.



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