Why Inclusion for Life Matters to Me as a Professional and a Parent

We work in a female dominated industry, which in my twenty plus years in PR, has always been the case.  But we don’t have the same proportionate number of woman in leadership positions across the industry and I have often asked myself why. What happens to cause this in the employee experience and life cycle somewhere between entering the PR industry and retirement? My conclusions aren’t rocket science, but the reality is far more complex than it might at first appear because there are historical barriers in the way of female progression, from society’s expectations of how to act and behave, to stereotyping and biases. Over time women have learned to conform and mask parts of themselves to fit in with a workplace historically designed by and for men. To survive, let alone progress, women have often needed to overcome, ignore, or accept ways of working that are not inclusive to them or designed with their needs or success in mind.

Both in my role as a leader in the UK business, but also as a parent to 3 school aged daughters, I am passionate about women not just in the workplace but in all aspects of life, having an authentic equal playing field. This means being confident and comfortable to be themselves, to ask for help and support without fear of judgement and not having to mask their true self to thrive.  For this to happen, we need to think, act and talk truly inclusively, in all walks of life allowing people to be themselves, to ask for what they need because to treat people fairly and equally takes time, effort, intention and empathy. It’s a world where differences are celebrated and not just tolerated or worse.

In the UK office, we have put a lot of thinking, time and intention behind our people, learning and DEI work, words and actions. This includes enhancing the terms (including remuneration) for our gender-neutral Family Friendly Leave and focusing on the time re-onboarding back into the business for those returning from family leave. We also recently introduced a range of new policies to support employees at critical life moments, including menopause, fertility, and menstruation. We have partnered with a women’s health charity, The Eve Appeal, to raise awareness of gynaecological cancers. In the year in which our Global DEI theme is focusing on Mental Wellbeing and Neuro-Diversity, in the UK we are deepening our longstanding work around wellbeing in the workplace through our ‘How Are You’ approach to open up conversations, mental health talks and a planned programme of ‘movement’, for 2024.  We believe that these programmes and actions help us to better understand how to support and encourage everyone to feel empowered to overcome the hurdles in their way and to proudly be themselves, asking for what they need to succeed. 

Making sure that everyone, including women at all levels and stages of their life and careers, are seen and heard, and we are doing all we can to understand them and their needs, whether that be through wellbeing, career progression, neuro diversity, life as working parent – whatever that might be. This is our goal. 

-Rebecca Hall, Group HR Director

Why I’ve stayed at Virgo for 18 years and counting

By Natasha Weeks, Executive Director, Virgo Health  

I can’t quite believe I joined Virgo Health almost 18 years ago. I started out at our first office in Richmond as a JAE working across a range of pharma clients. At the time I was one of around 20 people and we were on a mission to create Communications without Compromise. Perhaps it was my journalism training, but my passion was and still is storytelling – I wanted to tell health stories to consumers. 

So as Virgo Health hits its 20th milestone, apart from making me feel old 😉, I can’t help but reflect on what it is about Virgo that’s made me stay so long. 

Yet it’s simple really – because I love the people I work with and the work that we do.  

And it’s stayed that way, as the one thing that hasn’t changed in all this time is Virgo’s ethos and values. From Day 1 Virgo was a people-first agency, driven by our mission not to compromise our people or our clients. Over the years our culture has been kept alive by the old-timers and made more relevant by Virgo’s new generations. 

But of course, even the nicest place to work doesn’t mean much if you can’t find purpose in your work. I’ve been fortunate enough to find plenty, from creating ‘Emma: Work Colleague of the Future’, the most awarded health campaign of the year in 2020, to supporting parents through lockdown with Waterwipes, increasing representation during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and being part of an incredible media team that launched the world-first bivalent Covid-19 vaccine for Moderna. 

I do wonder if Virgo and I simply grew together, first as a young PR in a fledging agency it was wonderful to be part of building something new, then when we were acquired by Golin my life was also changing as I started a family. Being part of Golin also offered new challenges and opportunities, providing access to a global network and I’ve been lucky enough to spend time at Golin in Chicago and New York and work with colleagues across the world.  

A real highlight for me, as Consumer Health lead, has been working in collaboration with the Golin consumer teams to work on big consumer brands benefiting from healthcare expertise. Our hybrid working model is something that continues to set us apart and I’m hugely proud to work on Asics and Specsavers with the best creative and earned media minds in the business. 

Of course, across 18 years it wasn’t all plain sailing, moving from Richmond to Central London and being part of a network was a huge transition, and then there was lockdown-working with two young kids! But the magic has been, and hopefully will always be, Virgo’s strong sense of purpose as an agency that wants the very best for its people and its clients.  

Who knows if I’ll be writing this column again in another 20 years, but if I’m not, I imagine someone else saying something very similar. 

That’s the Purple Power. 

How ASICS earned a rightful place in health and well-being conversations

By Natasha Weeks, Executive Director, Consumer Health

Virgo Health’s Natasha Weeks, discusses how the recent ASICS Mind Games campaign earned a rightful place in health and well-being conversations.

Sometimes we have a hunch. We know the likely outcome. But how do we ensure meaningful data is behind those headline-grabbing stats? Today, ASICS launched Mind Games: The Experiment. We all know that exercise is good for our mental health, but could it improve the mental performance of even the brightest minds?  

To bring this concept to life, we could have easily asked an expert or commissioned a survey. But would that earn a place in the global health and wellbeing conversation? Not anymore. In order to generate an evidence-based consumer story, we blended Virgo Health’s informed healthcare expertise with Golin’s powerhouse consumer team to help ASICS co-ordinate a global experiment in partnership with renowned researcher in movement and mind, Professor Dr Brendon Stubbs

Targeting inactive competitor gamers, specialising in mind games from Chess to Esports, we recruited 77 people who rely on their cognitive function from across 22 countries and matched them up with personal trainers. We put them on a training programme designed by runner turned international coach, Andrew Kastor, including medium impact cardio and strength training. The gamers gradually increased their exercise levels to 150 minutes per week and Professor Stubbs measured the mental improvement of the participants based on their performance in their mind games, cognitive tests and wellbeing questionnaires over the course of a four-month research period. The results showed vast improvement in their cognitive functioning, including concentration levels and problem-solving abilities.

So, could exercise be the key to boosting brain power ASICS? Pass me my trainers. 

Virgo London launches gender neutral family leave, plus women’s health policies

By Rebecca Hall, Group HR Director 

It’s no secret that women’s careers are impacted by starting a family, but there are many areas of women’s health and women’s lives that can contribute to a lack of career equity. That’s why today I’m pleased to announce Golin London and Virgo Health’s enhanced gender-neutral, family friendly leave, as well as our newly-updated women’s health policies.  

The comprehensive new programme of policies focusses on supporting women’s wellbeing through key life moments, tackling taboos, as well as to helping mothers and fathers to build a more equitable share of the care as they start their path as a family.  All policies were carefully developed in consultation with stakeholders from across the business, including our DEI Director and our employee relationship groups for working mothers and the LGBTQIA+ community.


Our new gender-neutral policy on family friendly leave enables parents to benefit from two options for leave, depending on whether you are the primary or secondary caregiver. This policy is inclusive of whether the child may be yours or your partner’s child, adopted, or a surrogate child. We are also enhancing our family friendly pay up to six months full pay for our employees who are primary caregivers, regardless of gender, and 6 weeks paid leave for secondary careers. We’ve mirrored this in our Shared Parental Leave pay. 

We also updated our women’s health policies to empower our people to ask for the help they need in key life stages or if affected by women’s health conditions. One in 10 women live with difficult and painful symptoms from endometriosis, 1 in 4 women have left jobs due to feeling unwell due to menopause, and many women don’t feel supported or able to talk up in the workplace about difficult life moments around fertility, pregnancy loss and gynaecological health. Our suite of menopause, fertility, period and pregnancy loss policies, alongside our new partnership with The Eve Appeal which focuses on gynaecological health, aim to help build greater awareness and support for women’s health in the workplace.  


Our first new policy focuses on giving those experiencing the menopause the help and time they need to look after themselves, as well as knowledge and education for colleagues and line managers to ensure we collectively know how best to support each other.  The policy includes ten additional days paid leave for anyone experiencing the menopause, or for those supporting a friend or family member experiencing it.  


We are also introducing a menstruation policy to assist employees suffering from symptoms, or those with conditions such as Endometriosis, Dysmenorrhea, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) to name a few. We recognise that this can really impact our employees and our policy allows employees to take up to ten additional days paid leave to take some time out to focus on their wellbeing.  


We are also introducing a fertility policy, offering those going through fertility treatment, or supporting someone going through treatment, ten additional days paid leave. This is alongside a policy offering support and additional time, for anyone tragically impacted by pregnancy or baby loss.   


Through our partnership with the Eve Appeal, we also commit to being flexible and understanding, to breaking the taboos that exist around gynae health and creating a workplace that encourages women to attend life-saving screening appointments. To ensure we are raising awareness and guiding colleagues and line managers in how to support each other, each new policy will be accompanied by specific line management toolkits as well as workshops and webinars for employees.