We learn more about Victorian Funds Management Corporation’s (VFMC) family-inclusive initiatives and policies aimed at supporting parents, carers and women, thanks to our partnership with Family Friendly Workplaces.
Victorian Funds Management Corporation’s investment team is edging closer to reaching gender parity, now at 43 per cent, while across the full firm it is at 50/50 gender parity.
It’s an impressive result considering that across the industry, women make up just 27 per cent of investment teams, according to the Financial Services Council.
CEO Kate Galvin credits their numbers as being driven from women in leadership at the firm, including former CEO Lisa Gray, as well as the firm’s head of people and culture, Johanna Neilsen.
But attracting more women is also necessary, given the competition for great talent in Melbourne, as well as the need for diversity in their team to support the best possible decision-making.
VFMC manages around $80 billion for 30 Victorian public authorities and related organisations. It is tasked with investing for the benefit of all Victorians, and wants to reflect a broad range of viewpoints in their decision making.
Galvin spoke to Women’s Agenda for our series on leaders in family-friendly certified workplaces, as part of our partnership with Family Friendly Workplaces, a joint initiative between Parents At Work and UNICEF Australia.
Galvin was appointed CEO of VFMC in October 2021, having developed her leadership career at a time when women were pioneering flexible and part time working opportunities in big firms. She worked in private practice for eight years, before going on to work at NAB and JBWere, where she put her hand up to run one of their key businesses.
Galvin was pregnant with her first son when she was offered her first leadership job, a fact she told her boss at the time, who she now credits with sharing an initial reaction that the pending baby was irrelevant to her being the right person for the role. She continued to build her career through a decade of working part time, including for a period at Goldman Sachs.
“I think parents make great leaders because if you can manage little children, you can manage anything. I actually started and developed my leadership career as I also started my family.”
Like so many other women building their careers in the 1990s and early 2000s, Galvin had to fight to keep working and to keep moving through different positions. Critically, she had to fight to show they could work part time – in a way that made them equivalent to those working full time. “So I always expected to get the same opportunities.”
Galvin today worries about working parents being connected all the time to work through their devices, but actually recalls getting her first Blackberry and the difference it made to her being able to check in with her team on her days off. “That was actually a really massive game changer. It meant that you didn’t have to be at work all the time,” she says.
Now with VFMC, she is witnessing further shifts again in how technology is impacting the barriers between work and home. At the same time, she is also experiencing the juggle of different care responsibilities — caring for two aging parents.
“That care is having a different kind of impact on my career. So it shows why it’s important to lean into this idea that having family responsibilities and working in a family friendly workplace can be about so much more than parental responsibilities. It can be your responsibility as a caregiver for anyone in your family.”
Galvin says a key aspect of their Family Inclusive Workplace certification involved addressing their policies to be inclusive of all forms of caregiving and all family types – especially around widening the definition of family.
The process has seen VFMC bringing together more experiences, lessons and storytelling around balancing work and life. Galvin recently ran a lunch with team members who had taken parental leave over the past 12 months to get feedback about the experience. “I had six people in the room that had taken parental leave in the past 12 months, and five of them were men – which was really different to what I would have previously expected,” she says.
On paid parental leave, the firm now offers 16 weeks paid leave for primary carers on either the birth, placement (adoption or foster care) of a child, as well as four weeks of parental leave for partners. With up to 36 further weeks of unpaid leave also on offer, the firm also pays up to 26 weeks of superannuation during both paid and unpaid leave. Recognising the adjusting needs of team members, VFMC now also offers one week of grandparents’ leave for newly born or adopted grandchildren.
VFMC also partners with Mercer to provide team members the Care & Living program (CaLM), offering families independent guidance, support and advice around planning for aged care. They have also evolved their personal leave policies to cover a much broader range of leave requirements, including caring for kids during school holidays when you can’t access support. And they have expanded their view and definition of “family” to include “chosen family” and to be as inclusive as possible.
Working in finance in the heart of Melbourne, at a time when many big firms are putting clear requirements on team members to return to work, Galvin said VFMC is encouraging people to have some time in the office but is taking a much less rigid approach to issuing return to work mandates.
“The last thing we want is to lose all of the awesome gains we’ve made around trust and flexibility through COVID. I want my team to want to come into the office, rather than being forced to come in. We are calling the next iteration of hybrid working ‘balanced lives’, because one of the core pillars of our employee value proposition is that we lead balanced lives,” she says.
“It means that every team has a hybrid working balanced life agreement, where everyone says, ‘this is how I want to work’. There are expectations, there are face-to-face components, but every team gets to work it out.”
All these policies ultimately support VFMC with their mission to ensure they are removing as many limitations as possible on the type of talent they attract. That then means bringing in more diversity, and diversity of thought.
“When you’re investing large amounts of money in complex markets, which are only becoming more complex and are moving even quicker nowadays, you want to make sure that you make smart decisions,” Galvin says “You particularly want to ensure you are not falling into a kind of chasm of groupthink or where everyone thinks the same.”
Check out more from our series profiling family-friendly certified employers here.