Our latest guest blog from the Virgin Atlantic Leadership Team is with Dave Geer, Senior Vice President of Operations and executive sponsor of our internal VALUED (Virgin Atlantic Loves Unity and Ethnic Diversity) network.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What’s your story, what do you do at Virgin Atlantic?

I’m our Senior Vice President of Operations. I joined the Customer and Operations team a year ago, having spent the previous three years leading our Revenue Management and Distribution teams in Commercial. I’d previously spent five years with Virgin Atlantic Holidays in a variety of roles. I have been fortunate to work in a broad range of roles in my (almost) ten years at Virgin and gotten to know so many parts of this amazing organisation. I am Australian, having moved to the UK in 2011 and now live in London with my wife and three children, with my weekends spent carting them around to various sporting clubs.

How did you get involved with the VALUED network? What’s the role of the network, and your role within it?

I am brand new to the VALUED network having just volunteered as the executive sponsor. I’m very excited to be joining and helping the network drive positive change that ensures there is equality of opportunity for all in the workplace and that all parts of Virgin Atlantic embrace diversity and inclusion, no matter a person’s skin colour or cultural background.

The network helps raise awareness of different cultural and religious events so everyone can be comfortable in the workplace. As an ally, I am there to support the network; to listen, understand and learn about their experiences; and help drive action from the Leadership Team when required.

Why is our VALUED network important to you? How have things changed already and what other changes do you want to drive as exec sponsor?

The VALUED network plays an important role in fostering an inclusive environment that champions and celebrates previously underrepresented groups, ensuring everyone at Virgin Atlantic can thrive.  Allowing all our people to be at their best is important to me and this element is crucial. This is a journey that the whole of society needs to go on, to provide equality of opportunity for all. Through our VALUED network, we have a real opportunity to lead the way as an organisation of the future.

The network has already made great strides forward. It was instrumental in Virgin Atlantic signing the Race at Work Charter, demonstrating our commitment to improving equality and driving sustainable change in our company. Since its founding, we have implemented conscious inclusion sessions with over 80 of our leaders and will be making these mandatory e-learning sessions from November. The committee has also been working hard to create greater awareness of cultural issues and events; including a fascinating internal virtual talk with Lord Simon Woolley in May to mark the anniversary of George Floyd’s tragic death.

I really look forward to getting to know the network. We have a great chance to make a real step change to fulfil our purpose of improving diversity and inclusion at Virgin Atlantic and giving everyone a voice.

How can someone be a good ally?

Understand and Listen: We all come from different backgrounds and have had different experiences. As a starting point, I believe it’s important to try to understand other’s perspectives and try to put yourselves in their shoes by actively listening and understanding.  

Learn: Have humility to learn from others in the network and external experts and organisations. There are many others who are trying to make positive change and learning from them can only help the network to develop better ideas.

Facilitate change: Where the network requires our Senior Leadership Team to help drive action, an executive ally can act as a conduit to ensure there is buy in from across the organisation, and that the network is getting the support and resources it needs.

Champion: Live what you say. Be a voice for diversity and inclusion, and lead from the front.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month recognises and celebrates the role and contribution that Black people have made to shaping our nation, as well as the businesses within it, including Virgin Atlantic. It is also an opportunity to acknowledge that there is a lot more work to do to ensure that people of every skin colour have an equal opportunity to succeed and that there is still a long way to go to eliminate discrimination. It provides us with an opportunity as a company to openly discuss what more we need to do to improve our diversity and ensure that everyone can thrive at Virgin Atlantic.