“Sourcing, engaging and retaining diverse top talent means that organisations must have in place a business culture that allows this to flourish.”

An interview with Vue International's Executive Director - Group HR and a mentor in the first edition of the UNIC Women's Cinema Leadership Programme, Dee Vassili.

As a pioneer mentor in the UNIC Women's Cinema Leadership Programme, what was your experience of the initiative and why do you think programmes like this are important for our sector?
Whenever you ask people to describe what has had the biggest impact on their lives, for the majority of times, they recite stories that involve individuals who have influenced them at some point in their life.  People we meet can have a lasting impact on us, both in a negative and positive way, which can ultimately contribute to the shaping of what and who we become. I totally support initiatives like the UNIC Women’s Cinema Leadership Programme as this creates an opportunity for talented women to come together in a safe environment, share experiences and learn from each other. It also provides the opportunity to meet inspirational female role models within our industry who have achieved amazing things and can have a positive influence on one’s thinking, as well as ultimately becoming part of a personal support network. 

At VUE you have incorporated coaching and mentoring initiatives meant to retain, support and promote top talent. How do these add value to the overall success of your company? 
Coaching and mentoring at Vue are part of a broader talent strategy and not standalone initiatives, as they can be powerful tools when used in the right context. The worst thing that can happen in any of our cinemas is to have them operating without strong leadership. If a General Manager resigns, we have to be able to react quickly and fill that vacancy. If there is a gap, it will quickly start to have a negative impact on the commercial success of that business unit. To address this challenge, we implemented a talent strategy that focussed on creating effective succession plans, supported by robust talent pools. Within 2 years of this plan being implemented, of which coaching and mentoring was a critical part, we reduced the appointment of external candidates into General Management vacancies from 80% to 20% and increased internal appointments from 10% to 90%. As well as reducing our recruitment costs, enabling upcoming top talent within our business to be nurtured and retained for longer, it also minimised the risk of exposing cinemas to periods of commercial instability.

In your opinion, what can cinema leaders do today to ensure a more gender-balanced industry in the future?  
Research and studies have shown that a high performing and diverse work force gives an organisation a competitive advantage. Valuing difference, wide ranging perspectives and complementary strengths can ultimately deliver more informed and effective business solutions. Sourcing, engaging and retaining diverse top talent means that organisations must have in place a business culture that allows this to flourish.  It is not about soap box speeches and initiatives. It is about ensuring that business policies, processes, infrastructures and working practices are all underpinned by clear principles that enable business decisions relating to people to be based on inclusion, transparency, objectivity and meritocracy. In today’s world, websites like “” and “”, where employees post anonymous reviews about their jobs and companies, means that businesses can no longer hide their internal organisational has become part of their brand. If a positive and effective business culture is created, organisations will by default attract and retain highly talented diverse individuals resulting in a well-balanced workforce.   

What advice would you give to female cinema professionals looking to take the next step in their career?
Be confident and believe in yourself. As you take on more complex and senior roles, the ability to deal with challenges that you may not have previously come across becomes a more regular occurrence. This can be daunting when you are looking at that significant next step in your career. It is also at this stage when that little voice we all sometimes hear in our head gets louder; trying hard to sabotage and convince you that you do not have what it takes to make that next step. IGNORE IT! Focus on the qualities and strengths that have got you where you are today......believe in them and your ability to take on that new challenge. The achievements that provide us with our strongest memories and personal growth tend to be those that took us completely out of our comfort zone so don’t shy away from them......get out there and positively seek them out.

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