Darlington Building Society has vowed to continue placing inclusivity at the heart of the business after performing strongly in a survey ahead of International Women’s Day.

The benchmarking survey by the Financial Services Culture Board (FSCB), in partnership with the Financial Services Skills Commission, has shown the Society is doing well in creating a culture in which staff feel supported irrespective of gender, age or ethnicity.

The Society was placed in the first or second quartile for all questions relating to inclusive leadership and ranked first among 12 firms surveyed about employees being recognised for promoting an inclusive culture.

It was also the highest ranked of those firms for creating a culture with a sense of belonging.

In addition, just under 90 per cent of employees feel supported in their work, compared to an average of 85 per cent.

And less than one in ten employees at the Society worry that colleagues may draw conclusions about their ability based on stereotypes, compared with nearly 20 per cent across all firms on average.

To reinforce key messages on International Women’s Day today (March 8), the Society has announced a series of workshops for employees and local schools.

Sharon Davies, chief executive of Young Enterprise, will speak at employee workshops on encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset, while the school workshops will focus on workplace stereotypes for Year 5 pupils.

The Society is also hosting a Future Female Founders brunch on Thursday (March 10) in partnership with Teesside University and Young Enterprise.

Niki Barker, Director of People and Culture, said: “Darlington Building Society prides itself on being an inclusive employer that is determined to place equality and fairness at that heart of everything it does.

“The positive results from the survey show that the majority of our staff feel supported at work and know that opportunities for progression are open to everyone.

“However, we know there is still room for improvement, so our aim in 2022 is to increase the focus on inclusivity and build on our reputation as an equal opportunities employer.”

Michelle Boldison, who joined the Society as a senior IT technician last October and was named Rising Star at the recent staff awards, is an example of a female employee who feels well supported.

Michelle, who grew up in Redcar, is used to proving herself in male-dominated environments. In the 1990s, she was one of only three female students out of a cohort of around 20 taking a maths degree at Teesside University.

After graduating, she worked in IT for Kvaerner Oil & Gas and was the only female engineer on a major project to design and build the $338m offshore support vessel Triton.

Later in her career, she became North of England field engineer on an innovative shared IT function linking the NSPCC, Alzheimer’s Society, Children’s Society, and Age UK.

After 18 years in the charity sector, she was attracted to Darlington Building Society because of its reputation as a progressive employer, and commitment to supporting good causes in the community.

“Darlington Building Society is a place where diversity and equality are important – it’s very people-focused and everyone understands we are all different with different needs,” she says.

“As a mum of a teenage daughter, it’s also important to me that the Society prioritises work-life balance. I know that I’m working for an organisation where my age and gender don’t matter.”