Gender  Diversity


Female Leadership Role-Modelling

We are actively encouraging women to choose a career in our sector. We are proud to have appointed highly accomplished women in key positions, including 

Over the last 5 years, we have doubled female representation at senior levels of our organisation.  In terms of recruitment more broadly, diverse candidate slates have resulted in an improvement in female to male ratios hiring for three years in a row. Our goal is to celebrate the female leaders of DS Smith and raise awareness of their experiences. 

Identifying and Supporting Female Talent  

We firmly believe in identifying and supporting female talent, which is evidenced by a significant portion of our high-potential talent being female (36%), all of whom possess the motivation and ability to advance into more senior roles.  

Our learning & development programmes incorporate inclusion, and we ensure our female talent are participating in these programmes. For example, 60% of participants are female in our bespoke, in-house programme ‘Compass’ for early talent. Furthermore, 47% of our Coaching for Excellence places were occupied by women.  

We are also dedicated to hiring diverse talent into our international DS Smith Graduate Programme, with 42.5% of all graduates in our 2022 and 2023 programmes being female. 

I've found the program to be an incredibly enriching experience. I've enjoyed the hands-on exposure to real-world projects and the opportunity to collaborate with diverse teams. This program has also fostered a supportive environment for personal growth.

Lydia Spiliopoulou
2022 Sales Marketing & Innovation (SMI) Graduate in East Europe (based in Greece)

Now & Next Sustainability Strategy  

As part of our ‘Now and Next’ Sustainability Strategy we set targets to support the development of an inclusive environment where everyone can realise their potential and thrive. A key priority of Now & Next - by 2030, we will have improved gender diversity towards 40% of women in senior leadership, in addition to setting an aspiration for other protected characteristics. 

Employees of the Castelfranco Emilia site
Castelfranco opened in September 2022 with state-of-the-art machines removing the requirement for operators to handle heavy machinery, making this work more accessible to women.

Together, HR and the leadership team explored different recruitment options to attract a more diverse group of candidates. In addition to valuing technical expertise, they considered qualities such as curiosity, proactivity and teamwork.  Although no gender targets for Castelfranco were set, nearly one-third of the workforce are women, the majority working in operations. 

Gender Pay Gap Reporting  

 Our continued focus on female retention, development and recruitment has led to year-on-year improvements in our gender pay gap, and this year, we have achieved gender parity for the first time. See our UK Gender Pay Gap Report on external website.  

Celebrating All Genders with Our Active Networks  

A group of our graduates founded the Gender Diversity Network in 2022 to connect with female role models within technical and operational roles in manufacturing. Since the network’s creation, their mission has grown, and they have hosted a variety of informative and educational webinars and coffee breaks on gender-related topics, including: 

  • Menopause and menstrual health 
  • Traditional gender roles and the Authority Gap 
  • Men’s mental health  
  • Working and being parents and/or carers 
  • The experiences of non-binary identifying people  
The Gender Diversity Network winning the Smithies in the category "Realising the potential of our people".
The Gender Diversity Network winning the Smithies in the category "Realising the potential of our people".

The founding graduates’ impressive efforts were acknowledged during our company-wide internal recognition ceremony, winning a Smithie, and they donated their prize money to Equality Now and Movember 

In addition, our LGBTQ+ & Allies Network raises awareness on trans experiences and has also held a pronouns workshop to educate on the importance of using pronouns for psychological safety.  

Our active networks play an important role in driving conversations about gender and diversity, equity, and inclusion to foster greater empathy and understanding across our organisation.