Birmingham business expands with VR acquisition

Birmingham business expands with VR acquisition

Birmingham-based business, the Martin James Network, has expanded its portfolio further with the acquisition of VR company, VR Simulation Systems.

Headquartered in Edgbaston, and employing over 1,200 people globally, the Martin James Network is formed from a variety of organisations ranging from start-ups to well-established brands that have been in business for over 15 years.

The network has gone from strength-to-strength over the last two years, having started as a team of ten in rented offices in October 2018.

This latest move sees the network expand its mental health group, TalkOut, as it looks to help businesses navigate new ways of working and support staff wellbeing following the coronavirus outbreak.

Headed up by CEO, Jill Mead, TalkOut will now be able to offer workplaces across the country access to the best employee mental health support using the latest technology, in addition to its existing training and consultancy services.

As well as the new VR offering enabling employees to better understand and manage mental health through simulated environments, TalkOut has launched an app to help businesses connect and engage with teams as the nation adjusts to home working.

Rigorously tested for 18 months, and developed to work across countries and continents, the app helps businesses encourage collaboration, boost engagement, break down silos and provide crucial mental health support and counselling through a specialist chat function.

Ayyab Cockburn, chief operating officer at the Martin James Network, says: “We’re an ambitious network of businesses and we’re always looking at ways to diversify and grow, whilst keeping an eye on emerging trends.

“This latest acquisition is our response to what is a global issue. We’ve all been forced to work remotely, and whilst flexibility is an attractive benefit, this way of working can lead to isolation or silos.

“Businesses now more than ever are faced with both emotional and physical barriers that can and will impact on their success. Accepting that we need to change how we communicate with our employees, will be key in driving businesses forward during this challenging time.”

For more information about the Martin James Network, visit or

Martin James Network celebrates International Woman’s Day

Martin James Network celebrates International Woman’s Day

The Martin James Network is passionate about forging the path towards a more gender-balanced world. Although we’ve seen a greater support of the cause in recent years, International Women’s Day (IWD) is the perfect opportunity to reinforce the idea that everyone has a role to play in today’s world, celebrating the achievements of women and calling for gender parity.

International Women’s Day, which is celebrated annually on 8th March, is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and is a focal point in the movement for women’s rights.

Across the world, from small, local celebrations through to largescale events and press conferences, people everywhere are delivering exciting and engaging accounts of the commitment individuals and businesses are making to raise awareness and change perceptions surrounding women’s equality.

The first​ ​IWD gathering took place in 1911 and was supported by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, with the​ Socialist Party of America, United Kingdom’s Suffragists and Suffragettes and further groups already leading the way for the development of women’s rights and equality. Today, IWD belongs to all groups of people working towards equal rights for women across the world.

Around the start of the movement in the early 20th century, International Women’s Day focused on activism and fighting hard for equality, concentrating on securing the right to vote and equal pay for women. Although we’ve made great steps forwards regarding some of these issues, women’s voices in society and the gender pay gap still remain key priorities over a century later.

In the 1970’s, widespread feminist action saw women rallying, protesting and lobbying hard for inclusion, influence and equality, but the arrival of the 1980’s saw an influx of “Fix the Women” programs. These pieces were designed with positive connotations, trying to help women become more confident, visible, well-networked and assertive but instead they reinforced a notion that women needed to “act like men” and “fit” into existing patriarchal structures if they want to succeed.

Across the last 20 years, we’ve seen more positive progress for the cause. Organisations have started questioning patriarchal structures in work-related situation, moving towards more diverse recruiting, inclusive talent pipelines, and attention to wider diversity groups beyond gender such as race, LGBT+ and so forth.

In the past few years, we’ve seen more men become advocates and champions of change, recognising their pivotal position as a key supporter in women’s equality. Many progressive CEOs and influential leaders have committed via formal public channels to help build diverse and inclusive organisations that challenge stereotypes and bias.

The 2017 and 2018 campaigns saw International Women’s Day as the most discussed topic on Facebook by millions – that’s even more than the Super Bowl! Everywhere, gender is on the radar, with stereotypes and bias being called out regularly in mainstream media.

As of 2020, we’ve seen the increase in other similar movements including #MeToo and #TimesUp, alongside the significant rise in support for International Women’s Day across the world. With the thousands of female-focused days and initiatives taking place each year globally, it’s clear to see that gender is firmly on the agenda! 

We are moving towards a very exciting time in history where the world now “expects” gender balance – the world notices its absence and celebrates its presence. 2020, sees an important wave of collective individualism as we all strive to be #EachforEqual – because an equal world is an enabled world.

But there’s still a long way to go:

  • Women lead only 14 of 195 countries
  • Women are paid 23% less globally
  • Only 7% of Fortune 500 Companies are run by Women

At this rate, it will take more than 100 years to reach ‘gender equality’, with the gender pay gap being a key focus for the cause.

According to the Office of National Statistics 2019 report, the UK’s average gender pay gap is 17.3%, with men being paid on average this much more than their female counterparts. The gender pay gap measures the difference between the average earnings of all male and female employees, irrespective of their role or seniority.

The Martin James Network is committed to achieving an equal world – our workforce across the UK is 59% female and 41% male, with women making up 45% of the senior team. In fact, the senior Antser management team has a gender balance of 57% female – an incredible feat in a sector where only 17% of the workforce is female. In addition, Loubna Bourfa of Okra was awarded the female ‘CEO of the Year’ at the Science & Technology Awards – an award that is richly deserved.

Our commitment to gender equality doesn’t just stop in the UK – 59% of the senior leaders of our global teams are female. Combined our total Directorship team across the UK and globally is 51% female and 49% male achieving a gender balance across the world.

As a network, we are committed to reporting on the positive progress we are making in this field, and we aim to keep maintaining our gender equal workforce and leadership teams, which is something that we are very proud of. Whilst there is always more that can be done, we know that we are starting from the right base and one that most organisations can only aspire to.