Gender Equality Awards 2017:Gender Champion Award Finalist - Chris Stylianou Chief Operating Officer, UK & ROI, Sky

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Chris is the Executive Sponsor of Sky’s Women in Leadership (WiL) programme and sits on the Sky Executive Board. He leads and guides on Sky’s vision to enable female talent within the organisation, and is committed to making an embedded cultural change across the business. Chris was heavily involved with the setup of the programme and continues to support and input through his role as Executive Sponsor.

Alongside Sky’s CEO, Chris set an overall target of reaching a 50:50 gender balance, both across the business and in each department. He works with members of the executive team to agree yearly targets and share best practice to ensure that the organisation is driving towards a 50:50 gender balance. This target links with the business case for diversity, and Chris is focused on ensuring the leadership team prioritise and engage with the initiative.


To reach 50% in leadership Chris worked with the core WiL team to create the following pillars:

  • Supercharging talent: there are 350 women on Sky’s sponsorship and development programme for high-potential women across the business, which allocates them a sponsor to build their profile and advocate for them across the business, opening opportunities. The women have four development sessions on strategy, networking and confidence and regular networking events.
  • Levelling the playing field: introducing gender balanced shortlists for all job vacancies and rolling out unconscious bias training.
  • Attracting great external talent and building Sky’s reputation as an employer: through targeted marketing and recruitment events (particularly for areas where women are under-represented) and building Sky’s reputation as an inclusive employer through media and speaking platforms.
  • My family care: Chris is committed to ensuring it as easy as possible for women to balance their home life alongside a career. He reviewed Sky reward structure and as a result ‘My Family Care’ was launched, offering all employees six free days of emergency childcare and eldercare.


Chris maintains his commitment to gender diversity in the business by:

  • Speaking internally: Chris addressed nearly 500 members of staff about why he’s sponsoring the WiL initiative, why it’s vital for business and how people can get involved. He also presents to the top 200 leadership team twice a year on progress to date and to maintain their engagement, and regularly writes blogs for Sky’s intranet site.
  • Engaging leadership team and making them accountable: Chris gives regular updates to the Executive team and the CEO, including targets and areas for improvement. He governs internal aspirational targets to get to 50/50 by regularly reviewing plans and numbers with Executives holding them accountable at each target review. Chris also made sure that each Executive has remuneration-linked objectives in relation to this initiative.
  • External communities: Chris signed up to ‘Men Advocating Real Change’ and sits on the Women’s Business Council and Men as Agents of Change  He shares best practice with members as a public role model for equality, with the hope that he will empower others to lead and make changes.
  • Speaking externally: Chris is vocal about the work Sky is doing to inspire others. He spoke to 300 women at a Management Today conference about being a male change agent.
  • Driving UK business change: Chris is working on an initiative to drive sponsorship into all businesses across the UK, personally signing up big businesses as champions, creating materials and working with government, as he believes this is a way to help drive gender equality across society.
  • Chris is vocal about the challenge and importance of engaging men: he is active in ensuring other men are actively part of the programme with more than 90% of senior men across the UK business now sponsoring women.


Chris demonstrates inclusive leadership by:

  • Encouraging flexible working in his team, creating a culture which is focused on output instead of input.
  • Setting a precedent as a senior role model by working flexibly, offering part-time contracts and actively championing women.
  • Sponsoring six women in his business area, two of whom have been promoted.
  • Employing 12 women in high-profile leadership roles within his COO group.


Chris’s work and commitment to the programme has led to many successes. More than 40% of Sky’s senior leaders are now female (up from 31%). Eight out of 10 women on the sponsorship and development programme felt it would help their career progression and two-thirds would be confident to take a role outside of their comfort zone. Chris understands that to make the programme sustainable it needs to be embedded into the business and this will be his focus for the coming year.

83% of job vacancies had a gender balanced shortlist over the last financial year and 69% of these were filled by women.

11 women in technology recruitment events have been held and 330 women have attended women-specific events. Sky also set up Get Into Tech, a free training programme for women with little or no experience of technology. 53 attended the pilot wave of the course and nine successfully gained roles within Sky’s software academy.

When the design of Sky’s new headquarters were being planned, Chris inputted to create a culture that facilitated flexible working, with 30% less desk space and more open areas.