Natalie Goldwater led the BBC’s Global Women in News Network for 8 Years. Here, she shares her ERG journey, from getting the network off the ground to helping it have the largest global membership.

Global Women in News is a staff network for women working in BBC News. It was started by a handful of women in BBC World Service in 2014 with the aim of increasing the representation of women in BBC content and opportunities for women in the workforce. At its inception, there were very few staff networks in the BBC nor were they linked to the EDI organisational strategy. I was brought in to get the network up and running- I stayed for 8 years and it is now one of the largest with a global focus, and more than 1500 members worldwide.

Initially I looked at best practice elsewhere and I set up some focus groups to find out what potential members would want from a network. I ran a few launch events with inspiring external and internal female speakers to talk about their career journeys and organised other networking events. The need was expressed by members for a structured mentoring system specifically for women within the BBC as well as other development and training opportunities and along with the events, this became part of the offering which I established. To ensure there was geographical diversity and empower members to get involved, I ran a weekly committee meeting made up of volunteers from around the world to take on roles and projects which would engage members and deliver network objectives.

During the first year, there was a huge appetite from staff to join GWiN and participate in events, networking and development opportunities. As membership increased, I developed an annual survey so members could give their views about how the network was doing and what they wanted us to prioritise in the coming year. This gave a focus for the year ahead and made GWiN accountable to its members on progress made. Ensuring that we adapted to what members wanted was crucial to how we evolved. For example, while members still wanted networking events, in recent years, advocacy on policy became key priorities. As the network matured, we were able to measure impact year on year with the survey data, such as repeating questions about the positive impact we were having or improvements to key themes. Sharing this data with senior stakeholders, became key to building relationships with senior management in EDI as they could see its value, in alignment with the broader EDI case.

Over the years, it became necessary to refresh how the network could support its members. For example, we changed some of the focus of events including responding to newsworthy topics such as gender pay and and collaborated with other staff networks on events with intersectional themes. This also helped build new allies and members.

Running a global network can be challenging when operating across different countries. This can be because of different cultural sensitivities, understanding of inclusion and legislation. Communication and trust in the network can also be more difficult when members feel physically far away. However, at Global Women in News, we ensured that we developed good relationships with our global leads with regular check in’s and support with local ideas and resourcing. We also took time to understand the specific needs of women in different locations through listening sessions and facilitated local collaborations such as joint networking events between regional bureaus such in Delhi, Islamabad and Kathmandu.  Following the pandemic, there was feedback from international members who said that they wanted greater connection to GWiN and as a result  we did some targeted outreach, via an international roadshow in 2021, visiting some bureaus, finding out what more they wanted as well as identifying some of the challenges they faced locally and feeding them back into central HR and EDI.

GWiN is now a highly visible and highly valued staff network at the BBC. I am proud of helping to grow a highly engaged network to over 2000 members in 25 countries worldwide. Achievements I am most proud of include helping women develop through a successful mentor scheme matching 800 women at all stages of their career, creating a high profile photograph exhibition of inspiring women which included incredible stories of resilience and leadership from staff around the world as well as empowering women to raise matters that are important to them. But more than that, I am proud that GWiN has kept true to its authentic spirit. It continues to be trusted by its members as a safe space to connect and is a beacon for a more inclusive culture.

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