New wave of leaders embrace equality
What makes an ultimate workplace for a woman? Melanie Burgess discovers.
FEMALE employees are urged to consider their workplace and whether they deserve better.
There are plenty of employers in Australia committed to attracting, retaining and progressing female talent to increase representation, close pay gaps and improve overall workplace wellbeing.
Rupert Bryce, director of leadership development and employee engagement company Performance Strategies, says flexibility policies, such as allowing people to work from home, not only improve employee mental health and encourage parents to return to work but can also mean increased productivity and big savings for employers’ real estate costs.
He says the encouragement of women’s participation and leadership is being led by younger, smarter companies as well as mature companies with progressive and motivated chief executives. “Younger people have different expectations around workplace flexibility and that benefits women,” he says.
“(Companies) are moving their lip-service policies into actually doing something about it and it’s making a difference to the retention and engagement of women.”
Caltex Australia head of capability and performance Nicole Allingham says increasing the representation of women in senior positions is important.
“When you have diversity in an organisation, you have diversity in ideas and in a continually changing environment it’s important to be accessing that diverse perspective,” she says.
Caltex has reduced its gender pay gap for like-for-like work and increased female representation in senior leadership to 32 per cent.
It attracts and retains top female talent with policies such as its BabyCare package, which includes a 3 per cent quarterly bonus and practical assistance with finding childcare – and is available to the primary carer, whether male or female.
For Telstra, flexible work arrangements, pay equity, celebration of achievement and paid leave for domestic violence survivors and are all part of its female-friendly workplace.
But the policies and benefits are not exclusive to women.
Telstra manager for diversity and inclusion Troy Roderick says although a focus on gender equality is very specific, the telco is really aiming to create the conditions for individual success, regardless of gender, culture, age or ability. He says Telstra’s gender equality programs engage both men and women, as all workers are responsible for encouraging change.
“Quite often, male leaders will say ‘I have two children, a boy and girl, and I don’t want either to be disadvantaged in their careers’, and if they have empathy, they have motivation to do something about it,” he says.
Telstra is aiming for 30 per cent of its executive team to be women by June this year.
Director of service and advocacy Sally Haydon has been with Telstra for nine years. After being offered a promotion while seven months’ pregnant, she was able to take time off then ease back into full-time work.
“I felt comfortable to ask for what I needed,” she says.
“I came back parttime and it was a good thing being able to do that, but it was also the culture that supported it.
“As time progressed, I moved towards a more flexible working week, working larger days, then having a day off with my family.” WESTPAC has been a long-time supporter of gender equality as one of Australia’s first publicly-listed companies to provide paid parental leave.
In 2010, it created another first for the private sector with staff receiving superannuation during unpaid parental leave. Westpac director of women’s markets, diversity and inclusion Ainslie van Onselen says the initiative helps reverse the retirement savings gap between male and female employees.
Westpac senior marketing and communications manager 200 years project Zoe Lee has been with the bank for almost eight years and has two children, Max, 5, and Harry, 18 months. She took 14 months’ leave for Max but was able to return with a flexible work arrangement. “Everyone was really supportive. It’s important to be upfront about what you are doing and don’t be shy or apologetic. Flexibility needs to be the norm,” she says.
Westpac senior manager Zoe Lee. Picture: RICHARD DOBSON
FLEXIBILITY HELPS: Telstra’s Sally Haydon. Picture: SARAH MATRAY