Interview: the why and how of creating an inclusive workplace
March 9, 2022

Danielle Chruszcz, People Director at Activate Group reflects on stereotypes, role models, and breaking the bias.

Danielle Chruszcz has been People Director at Activate Group for just over a year and looks after HR, Recruitment, and Learning and Development for the business.

We caught up with her on International Women’s Day to talk about the event, and the role employers can play in creating an inclusive work environment.


What does International Women’s Day and the theme ‘break the bias’ mean to you?

For me personally it’s about creating an inclusive environment where everybody feels comfortable to be themselves.

I’ve worked in HR throughout my career and I’ve been lucky to come across a lot of inspirational role models.

I’ve worked with female line managers and leaders in every role I’ve had, and I’ve seen great examples of the fact that it’s possible to have both a successful career and a family.

As a single mum of three it’s important to me that I challenge the negative narrative we sometimes hear around women ‘wanting to have it all.’

Of course the same applies in considering our attitudes to men when they choose to move into traditionally female roles. To be inclusive we need to enable people to make choices that are right for them, and challenge ourselves to acknowledge and change our own biases, both in and out of the workplace.


What role do you think employers have in breaking the bias?

Employers have a big role to play in creating an environment where everyone can achieve their best, regardless of their background, gender or any other characteristics.

It’s an opportunity too, because building diverse teams gives you access to new ideas and points of view.

We’ve come a long way over the last twenty years but we’re certainly not there yet.

There’s a massive amount of good practice out there, and some sectors and industries are a lot further forward than others.

I think for those sectors that are still dominated by a particular gender, the focus needs to be on understanding the barriers and working to break them down.

Change is gradual but it can build and snowball. Especially where there are role models to lead the way and prove what’s possible.


What does International Women’s Day mean to Activate Group?

We’re proud to be a female led business within automotive. It’s an industry that’s changing, but it’s still male-dominated and we’re lucky to have great female role models in our leadership team.

International Women’s Day is an opportunity to share success stories and challenge preconceived ideas of what type of person you need to be to succeed. We want all team members to feel valued for their contribution.

Our strategy is focused on communication and training, helping people to recognise where they could have unconscious bias.

We’re asking people to think about what they do and how it impacts others. International Women’s Day is a great platform, but this is something that we’ll be acting on all year.

There are also particular areas of the business we need to focus.  The majority of repair technicians in the industry are male, and all the technicians in our body shops are men.

In an industry with a well-reported shortage of talent there’s a big opportunity in changing the stereotype.

We’re looking at ways to remove barriers when we recruit. I’m pleased to say we welcomed a female apprentice into our most recent programme, which is a great start.

Looking for people with relevant experience can be more challenging. It feels like a self-fulfilling cycle. We’re tackling this by looking at transferable skills and using development plans to enable women to progress into different roles within our repair centres.


What’s the most exciting opportunity to create an inclusive environment?

Introducing new, young talent into a business is a fantastic opportunity to develop the culture.

As part of our Activate Repair Apprentice Programme we welcomed 15 apprentices into a population of 112 technicians.

That’s 13% of the people in that workforce with open minds and fresh ideas.

I see that as an amazing opportunity to help shape attitudes, do things differently and develop trailblazers for others to follow.

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