New wave of lead­ers em­brace equal­ity

What makes an ul­ti­mate work­place for a woman? Me­lanie Burgess dis­cov­ers.

The Courier-Mail - Career One - - Diversity -

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

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