A panel of finalists from the 2014 AHRI Gender Equity in the Workplace Award joined facilitator Catherine Fox and AHRI in Melbourne to talk about the successes and challenges of gender equality programs in their organisations on 5 March.
Speakers from Suncorp, Mercy Health, Aurizon and EnergyAustralia sat down together to celebrate International Women’s Day and to talk about their AHRI Awards program submissions. The need for data and targets was a common theme.
Suncorp has a number of gender metrics and diversity targets, and good governance and diligence plays a central role in accountability. “There are behaviours included in everyone’s scorecards across the organisation on diversity and inclusion,” says Matt Dowie, executive manager of diversity and inclusion at Suncorp.
Dowie also reflected on Suncorp’s early days of gender equality programs. “We were passionate about supporting women but we ran the risk of alienating some of the men,” Dowie says. “And we were offering solutions that put women off – they didn’t want to be seen to be progressing their career with help.”
But not everyone agrees that targets are the answer to accountability. “If it’s not genuine then it won’t be sustainable,” according to Kate McCormac, Mercy Health’s executive director of people, learning and culture. Mercy Health implemented a program for women in leadership some years ago but “the feedback was that it was not what they wanted,” explains McCormack. “The program didn’t suit the culture,” she says.
The panellists agreed that a convincing business case tailored to the culture of the organisation was the key to getting both executive teams and front line employees on board.
Aurizon credits its diversity workshops for enhancing employees’ understanding of the business case for gender equality. “It can’t be just an HR project,” says Catherine Baxter, general manager of national operations service centre at Aurizon. “The line managers must be supporting the process.”
Often individuals can’t see the case for gender equality until it affects them personally. “Encourage people to step forward with their stories,” Dowie advises. “Help those leaders to adopt the right mindset – they don’t need to be gender equality specialists but they need to have the right intent.”
Some of the panellists favoured unconscious bias training. Aurizon put its middle management through the training, and Suncorp did the same with its recruitment team. “We require every short list of candidates to have at least one male and one female,” Dowie says.
Recruiting people with the right values was also a topic. “At Mercy Health, we’ve done a lot of work on our brand and on attraction and retention,” McCormack says. “A lot of that is to do with flexible work. Getting men to access flexible work is the key.
The assumption that women are the primary carers of children can adversely affect men and those who don’t have children. Employees shouldn’t need children as an excuse to work flexibly.
“We did a survey and there were a lot of men who wanted to work flexibly,” says Amber McDougall, acting group executive manager of people and culture at EnergyAustralia. “Through the anonymity of a survey we discovered a demand.”
The importance of getting leadership on board was key to the success of a gender equity strategy.
“Gaining a coalition around that leadership is important,” says McDougall, “then acquiring data, tracking and insights, and then taking a tailored approach to change.”
For more on the topic of inclusion in the workplace attend the AHRI Inclusion and Diversity Conference, taking place in Sydney in May. Find out more.