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Highlighting the CPL Group's Women in the Workplace


By Toby Belshaw

Few will have missed that the biggest FIFA Women’s World Cup in history has been taking place this summer - a significant milestone for the women's game, as leading female athletes from 32 nations stake their claim for glory.

The summer also marked the birthday of Emmeline Pankhurst, the game-changing women’s rights activist and leader of the Suffragettes, born in Moss Side, a few miles across the River Irwell from our Salford HQ.

The 2018 addition of her spectacular bronze statue to Manchester’s bustling, historically-significant St. Peter’s Square was a landmark development in a sport-obsessed city - and while a World Cup might be more synonymous with Geoff Hurst than Pankhurst, the strides she made led the way to the more level playing field enjoyed by today's Lionesses.

Being a Salford-based business, many of our female staff have followed paths paved by great Mancunian women - difference-makers like women’s suffrage forerunner and scientist Lydia Becker of Deansgate, medical pioneer and philanthropist Eleanor Schill of Withington, social dramatist Shelagh Delaney of Broughton and actress and comedienne Victoria Wood of Prestwich.

At the CPL Group though, we employ and engage exceptional female talent from across the UK, with each bringing their own distinct experiences, expertise and ideas to our melting pot of contributors.

With women making up more than 50% of our total employees, as well as 50% of our General Leadership Team (GLT), we are proud that female leaders comprise a healthy percentage of our departmental heads.

Those occupying such roles at the CPL Group include Head of People Development, Jane Davies, Head of Procurement, Rachel Turner, Head of Communications & Engagement, Rana Holland and Business Services Team Leader, Emma Bowker.

We also have female representation on our Board of Trustees in its Deputy Chair, Jo Bentley of Hopwood Hall College, who helps ascertain how the money we give back as a charity is spent.

With the CPL Group’s charitable objectives continuing to inspire and motivate staff of all gender identities, it has been another year of progress for our female staff, individually and collectively.

In February, Helena Fearnley-Brown was among the nominees at the 2023 Made in Manchester Awards, with the gala event at the Kimpton Clocktower Hotel recognising her outstanding achievements as a HR professional and recruitment/talent specialist.

Helena had been nominated by colleagues in recognition of her efforts across a 12-month period.

On International Women’s Day in March, we announced the formation of our dedicated Women’s Group.

This initiative has been spearheaded by one of our longest-serving female employees, Emma Bowker and one of our newest, Leah-Ann Richardson, who wrote on International Women's Day history for the CPL Group’s intranet platform.

In May, our most tenured employee, Mon-Yee Ackers, celebrated 18 years with us, a testament to Mon’s skill and resolve, as well as our ability to offer lasting, stable, fulfilling employment.

Then, on 28th June, the CPL Group held its inaugural Women’s Group events, which encompassed a special Westfield Health webinar covering the evergreen topic of ensuring a fitting work/life balance.

An interactive podium for female employees, with closed Teams channels proposed in the event of more sensitive discussions, the Women’s Group’s next meeting is set for August, with the September edition set to include a Women’s Health webinar, covering issues such as cancer and the menopause.

Meanwhile, the CPL Group has underlined its commitment in relation to the latter by signing the Menopause Workplace Pledge, a declaration to talk openly, positively and respectfully about the menopause, while taking positive action to ensure staff who are experiencing it are supported.

Having already been Certified as a Great Place to Work for a third consecutive year, July saw the CPL Group specifically recognised as a Great Place to Work for Women, with the commendation coming by way of anonymous staff feedback.

The news came as a real validation of our efforts to make our business a welcoming place where female employees can flourish, whatever their role, individual skillset or experience level.

In the past few months, female colleagues have had deserved promotions and also switched department or role beneath the overarching CPL Group umbrella, accenting our own flexibility.

We are also keen to empower new female talent and welcome those with a passion to show us what they can do.

To that extent, our graphic designer Viviana Di Miceli recently celebrated her two-year work anniversary at the CPL Group, having first arrived as an intern, in tandem with her studies.

With the CPL Group maintaining a positive approach to staff education and personal development, Viv was able to complete her courses and graduate this summer, while establishing herself as a valued member of our team.

If a career with the CPL Group is sounding appealing to you, there are various other advantages that might appeal, from flexible and agile working opportunities that support the family responsibilities of our male and female employees alike to compassionate co-workers who recognise we are all human.

Our workplace is a space for female talent to thrive. To be themselves. To better themselves. And to make a real difference to the education sector we serve through our work and our charity.

To learn more about the opportunities available with the CPL Group, visit our Careers subsection, which elaborates on our values and culture, with accompanying EDI information and staff stories.

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