Gender diversity is a hot topic these days, more so since Committee for Perth’s “Filling the Pool” research was released in May. Since then we have seen a huge increase in noise around the subject including front page headlines in every major media outlet around the country. The major corporates in our fine city all seemingly understand that something needs to be done in addressing Gender Diversity in the work place. Rather than an equality issue, this is an economic issue. We have mentioned previously how there is overwhelming evidence that a gender diverse workplace has numerous positive impacts including improved productivity, decision making, communication and idea generation, and it’s the bottom line business benefits that are spearheading the need for change.
Western Australia has 4 issues that make it a perfect storm for lack of female representation:
- A heavy reliance on mining, engineering and construction which are largely male dominated arenas
- A large FIFO culture
- The most limited number of childcare places in Australia
- A large female migrant population with no family support
These 4 idiosyncrasies contribute to Perth lagging behind the rest of Australia in Gender Equity statistics, with Australia in turn lagging behind the developed world.
How can we combat these issues and change? Enough of the talk, we need actions!
Here are our top 3:
- CEO Champion
The CEO of the company must be the passionate spokesperson because without his/her total support, it simply will not gather the required momentum. Change needs to come from the top or it will not come at all.
- What gets measured gets done!
Measurable gender equity targets work; stats all over the world prove it. Give some consideration that your targets don’t just need to be about the percentage of your workforce / leadership that is female. Think engagement, buy-in, commitment and measure those also. In our Gender Equity Consulting division, we have developed a simple diagnostic tool to help companies measure and improve these areas.
- Practice makes Progress!
Flexibility – A simple policy change companies can embrace is to implement a company-wide flexible working policy. Telstra has famously coined the ‘all roles are flex’ phrase. Flexible work policies are just a starting point, employees (male and female) need to know that taking up flexible working arrangements should not be seen as a cop out but rather a salient solution to integrating life and work, and let’s face it this is what we all want. What would really help turn all the talk to action would be to see more men take up flexible working arrangements. One of my clients is a global law firm who have recently appointed a flexibility champion and he is a male, which is fantastic; we need male role models working flexibly. Without doubt, men too would like to watch their kids on their sports day, or play piano in the school assembly, and most fathers love sharing the school pick-ups and drop offs. The key to a policy like this is that it benefits the organisation as a whole, rather than just catering for working mothers.
My final sentiment is to the women themselves; generating positive energy helps bring about change and thus my advice is simple: do what you love. If you are a stay at home mum, do something outside the home that you enjoy and that challenges you; if it benefits the wider community, even better. If you are a female balancing career and family, try to do more of what you are passionate about. People are generally good at what they love doing. Involve yourself, back yourself, stand up and be counted. Positive energy will help facilitate the change, the consequences of which will benefit us all.
Ainslie Gibson, Senior Consultant – Gender Equity