International Women’s Day
Friday 8 March 2019
Brought to you by AmCham’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee
Article by Melissa Vincenty and Victoria Hutchinson
The NSW Diversity and Inclusion committee would like to take moment to recognize the significance of International Women’s Day (IWD) 2019 and honour the people who have worked tirelessly to promote this day of recognition for more than 100 years. #IWD2019. It is also a day to reflect on the work that still remains, to think about how we take this movement into the future, and the legacy we will leave generations to follow.
Better the Balance, Better the World
2019’s IWD theme is Balance For Better. #BalanceForBetter, will run throughout the year. Most importantly, the theme embodies what business leaders are striving to do – create solutions for gender-based business challenges. Whether it is in the boardroom, company marketing, salary pay gaps or within individual teams, we call on our members to consider how you can achieve a gender-balanced workplace and social environment. The idea, according to the Workplace Gender and Equality Agency is to, “… achieve broadly equal opportunities and outcomes for women and men, not necessarily outcomes that are exactly the same for all.” This in turn, will improve national productivity and boost economic growth overall.
Challenges to a Gender Balance Mandate
We recognize the past achievements of our member companies and applaud the ongoing efforts of change leaders when it comes to gender balance. The number of internal company committees that address gender balance has grown exponentially over the past five years. Improvements can be noted in the areas of flexible leave policies (that are extended to all employees, but benefit returning mothers back into the workforce); the increase in remote working options; and in the recruitment and improvement in sustaining female leaders at all levels of our companies. There have been improvements to women board members of ASX 200 listed companies in the past nine years, growing from 8.3% to 26.2 % according to the Australian Human Rights Commission (see https://www.humanrights.gov.au/education/face-facts/face-facts-gender-equality-2018)
The challenges however, are to close some of the largest gaps that remain and are not as obvious a fix as some of the areas already mentioned. Again, according to the HRC, one in two mothers reported experience workplace discrimination as a result of their pregnancy, parental leave or on return to work. We also have seen a significant decline in women entering politics – Australia now ranks 48th in the world in terms female representation of women in politics. This is down from 32nd place in 2006.
There are other subtle challenges that need our attention. When we look at various industries, it is clear to those working on the front lines of gender balance advancement that barriers still exist for women leadership when it comes to cross functional moves, with the thought being from many leaders that women do not have the requisite industry experience and therefore hold them to higher standards than their male counterparts. We all work within a very diverse cultural landscape, however, cultural diversity in both American and Australian corporates and government are scarce, with the Diversity Council of Australia citing that less than 1.9% of ASX leadership comes from the pool of capable and talented diverse women. Finally, age is also an underlying factor when promoting the balancing of gender in our workplaces. Age discrimination for women is still prevalent across industries and starts early on from entry into certain professions to promotions into upper management. It is up to us to keep all of these factors front and center so that real change can be a reality.
Seeking Supportive Networks
Networks and communities have supported individuals through the millennia. Today is no different. Whilst we leverage technologies in day to day life, we need to ensure organizations create supportive networks for employees. Much success has been seen by encouraging Male Champions for Change and networking groups allowing women to connect and to share successes and challenges. The support of all senior executives and male leadership is essential as this acts as a catalyst for more gender balance and advancement within their management teams and down.
What Can We Do?
As industry leaders, we can all do our part to make the small changes that contribute to the overall movement towards gender balance. We support any initiatives that move us in the right direction such as:
- Improve equal training opportunities, ensuring that all of our employees are adequately prepared to keep up with changes in technology. Are you offering equal opportunities for training to all employees?
- Review policies and implement structures that help retain female employees and advance these policies. Incentives that help drive employee retention are workplace flexibility, breastfeeding facilities, return to work programs and parental and carers leave provisions (Business Council of Australia, 2013). Are your female employees satisfied with their workplace environment, or is there room for improvement?
- Recruiting and allowing hiring managers to take a step back and evaluate role requirements. This is an excellent opportunity to consider team and organizational diversity. Are you hiring with bias, whether intentional or unintentional?
- Review any trends you may see in your organization when it comes to age diversity. Do you seek to recruit older women with experience who may be re-entering the workforce or are lateral hires?
- Review your organization’s networks to ensure you have supportive and diverse networks. Are you in a position to share your experiences and perspective to support gender diversity?
- Male Champions of Change are central to the success of the diverse organization. Is your organization supportive of individuals showing this support? Are there opportunities to improve in this area?
- Do your senior executives support and advocate for greater gender balance and advancement of women in your organization?
Attend an International Women’s Day Event
There are a multitude of celebrations ranging from luncheons to training going on in the next two weeks. For more information, go to: https://unwomen.org.au/