Workplace flexibility is one of the major game-changers for the future of work in Australia — and something that disproportionately affects working women. For Deidre Willmott, Non-executive Director, Australia Post, this was best exemplified by trying (and failing) to squeeze in grocery shopping after work.
When she first returned to Perth to take up the position of Executive Director of Policy at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Western Australia (CCIWA), she knew there would be some things she would miss from the east coast – she didn’t expect shopping hours to be the biggest one.
A busy executive and the primary caregiver in her household, Deidre was suddenly struggling to manage the weekly grocery shop because the restricted trading hours in Western Australia meant supermarkets were closed at 6pm on weeknights (other than Thursday), and all-day Sunday.
“Balancing family and work and having to get to the shops before they closed was just so frustrating,” she says. “So, I really grabbed that issue and hit the streets talking about it. I gave presentations to community groups, to business organisations, to anybody I could find who was interested in discussing it.”
In the end, she succeeded in extending hours to 9pm on weeknights and between 11am and 5pm on Sundays.
“It’s much, much better but still confusing. To this day, if I am in a room full of women in WA, and I mention the issue of retail trading hours and the work that we did, I get a response of cheers.”
In many ways, it’s a clear example of how businesses and governments can fail to address the changing expectations of the modern workforce– something Deidre is passionate about addressing.
She spent four years from 2014 to 2018 as CEO of CCIWA, and in that time saw great changes in the way that working and trading occurs in Australia. Now, as a non-executive Director of Australia Post, she continues to see traditional business models being disrupted.
“Over time we see that it’s not just young women who need flexibility, but young men are also seeking flexibility to be more involved in parenting, to share the family work with their partner,” she says.
With technology rapidly taking over traditional work roles in many industries, there is an exciting opportunity today to reinvent the world of employment.
“This is actually about freeing people up to be retrained, to do different jobs that make a lot more use of their emotions, imaginations and their human skills. And as we free people up and focus more on where customers want that human contact, I think we will be seeing a lot of new jobs, and in many ways, better jobs than the repetitive tasks that are being replaced.”
Deidre will be speaking on the future of the workforce and responsibilities of the corporation at the Governance Institute of Australia’s National Conference in September, and she is particularly excited to be appearing alongside Taj Pabari, CEO of Fifty Six Creations.
“Taj set up his first business at 11. He’s now established Fifty Six Creations, which is teaching young Australians how to be entrepreneurs, and they’ve already educated over 50,000 young people. What I’m looking forward to talking to him about is the extent to which young people are not actually waiting to see how the world is changing, they’re going to be in there driving it.
“And I think the challenge for people like me, on Boards of existing companies, is how do we actually work with these young people who in many cases will be disruptors in our markets, and who are already successful by the time we would have expected them to be entering the workforce?”
We’ve teamed up with Governance Institute of Australia to offer a $300 National Conference discount for Women’s Agenda readers. Simply use the code WOMEN_300 when you buy your ticket.
- This code must only be used for the two-day registration option.
- This discount code is limited to the first 50 people who use it.
- If you’re already a Governance Institute of Australia member, you cannot use this discount code as you’re already eligible for the discounted member rate.