Greggs’ chief executive Roger Whiteside, who recently received an OBE for his services to women and equality, on how the business has benefited from its attitude to equality in the workplace

We at Greggs believe in championing diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive workplace, where everyone feels valued and empowered to fulfil their potential – no matter their background, race, ethnicity or gender.

We are particularly proud of our efforts to champion gender equality and the fact that almost half our management are female, with growing representation at our highest executive levels.

We love to see our people fulfil their ambition and potential. Our Shop of the Year program, for example, is a popular showcase for women and men who often have progressed to a level they are immensely proud of. Clearly, it is the right thing to do, but it also makes business sense to get the best out of our entire team.

While opportunity is afforded equally, statistics show women need more encouragement to take advantage of those opportunities, especially to reach the highest levels. And so, we have created a women’s development program to provide peer support and senior sponsorship.

Flexible working can play a key role when children come along and later when caring responsibilities appear. Too often, these demands fall on women, but flexible working can help men and women accommodate these responsibilities.

Male business leaders need to step up alongside female business leaders to generate the cultural and behavioural change to achieve better gender balance. That is why I joined the Women’s Business Council to play my part in ensuring a more equal representation of women at senior levels.

Our work isn’t confined to gender equality. We’ve a long history of working with people from disadvantaged backgrounds, ex-offenders and young people. Our dedicated programme, Fresh Start, offers support to people who find gaining employment through conventional routes more difficult. In the case of ex-offenders, this aims to help break the cycle of re-offending by demonstrating these people can play a meaningful role within business and society.

Some young people need extra support to start work, so we have teamed up with the Prince’s Trust to support their Getting into Retail program and sponsor its Cheryl’s Trust Centre in Newcastle.

Our programs have been recognised as best practice by the CBI and Business in the Community, and we continue to develop our dedicated Fresh Start program throughout the UK.