International Women’s Day 2018 has been and gone.
So what happens now? Do we put the research and stats away for another year, to once again share frustrations on a lack of progress in 2019?
On Women’s Agenda, we’d prefer to see employers taking action now — so that by 2019 we can point to a real shift in the numbers.
Last night Kristine Ziwica and I presented our post International Women’s Day report, researched and written with the support of Baker McKenzie.
Called Press for (Immediate) Progress, the report features a comprehensive snapshot of where women in Australia are right now. It explores figures around the gender pay gap (and what they actually mean) as well as leaderships gaps, a look at female entrepreneurs, the unpaid caring load, women’s health and other metrics and measures that help explain why there’s still so much work to do on workplace gender equality.
But as well as this snapshot, we also wanted to suggest some clear actions employers can take right now to actually help shift the dial on these numbers by 2019, with the goal of significant change occurring by 2020.
We came up with eight suggestions, comprehensively outlined in the full report.
Five of these ideas were workshopped during a roundtable of senior leaders following IWD in 2017, at Baker McKenzie’s Brisbane office. We called them ‘bold’ ideas, given we were asked to ‘Be Bold for Change’ on IWD last year.
The remaining three ideas were workshopped by Women’s Agenda, based on what trends emerged in this new research. We looked at key priority areas that have arisen over the past 12 months, including the urgent need to address sexual harassment, to prioritise women’s health and wellbeing, and to offer genuine career flexibility.
There are of course more ideas that can and should be explored, and we’re always open and interested in hearing them. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to share something you believe could work in shifting the dial for women at work, or that you have seen make a significant difference in a workplace.
Press to end sexual harassment at work
Tick-a-box training is not enough. A no tolerance policy actively shared from the very top of an organisation is needed. This is vital not only for protecting staff and particularly improving the experience of women in the workforce, but also for protecting the reputation of an organisation, given the #MeToo movement is seeing more women speak up– often publicly– about the sexual harassment they have experienced.
Press to make flexible careers an actual reality
A ‘part time’ or flexible job should not halt career advancement or result in diminished roles and responsibilities. Making ‘flexible careers’ a reality requires an overhaul of how flexible work is currently being used and who it is considered to be for. We need to see men and women working flexibly, with the option provided to parents and those without kids, and to everyone no matter what their leadership level in an organisation.
Press to prioritise employee health, wellbeing & safety
Addressing sexual harassment is one step in improving this, while taking steps to improve outcomes for those affected by family or domestic violence is another. From there and beyond Health & Safety regulations, employers can and must consider the mental and physical health of staff. This not only includes offering tools like paid domestic violence leave, as well as a wide range of services and assistance programs employees can access, but also continuously communicating to staff what’s on offer, and how you’re supporting them. There’s also scope for employers to help ensure staff are getting the recommended 2.5 hours of physical activity a week.
The following five ideas are ‘shifts’ we first outlined midway through 2017, that we’d like to see more employers adopting in order to shift the dial by 2020.
Shift the cultural expectations through conversations
Every day assumptions made about men and women at work are limiting the opportunities both men and women can pursue and explore – such as flexible work, interests outside of work, work-related travel and overseas opportunities, the option to work on big projects etc.
Shift the corporate culture: Apply pressure and influence
Organistions will quickly take action on gender diversity once external pressure is applied. We’ve seen this across ASX 200 companies, where the number of women on boards has been improved significantly since 2009, due to a number of factors including ASX reporting guidelines and heightened media attention. While there’s a role for consumers and shareholders to play in applying this influence, employers can themselves play a direct role. Employers can apply pressure on suppliers and other service providers they use to get serious about the diversity of their teams.
Shift the numbers: Through targets and KPIs
What gets measured, gets managed. Reported and publicised targets will play a significant role in increasing the number of women in senior leadership. But these targets need to go beyond just women on boards, to being applied to address numerous aspects of inclusivity. Targets can be applied to everything: the number of women in leadership positions, the breakdown of ethnically diverse employees across different levels of the organisation, the number of women and minority groups being formally sponsored. Other areas worth considering targets for may include the number of promotions, the number of women attending training courses, and the number of female-led suppliers being used. Targets will work if people are incentivised. Establish clear reporting mechanisms and link them to the KPIs of senior managers.
Shift the Gender Pay Gap. Do a Pay Audit and rectify it
Surprising pay gaps often emerge when organisations conduct pay audits, especially those that believe they don’t actively discriminate against women. A pay audit is the first step in addressing the problem. But committing to fund any pay gaps that emerge is the next. AECOM did this two years ago, allocating millions of dollars to close the gap, while Energy Australia has just announced it will spend $1.2 million closing the gender pay gap affecting 350 of its female employees.
Shift the profile of women: Give ‘Mid Level’ Women a voice
When we workshopped these ideas with various senior women, they openly said they didn’t require any further visibility in demonstrating their capacity or in getting more opportunities. But they could see that women at the ‘middle point of their careers with ambitions for leadership’ often struggled to be recognised. This period of a woman’s career can also coincide with taking on additional responsibilities at home. Employers should look for opportunities for these women to be sponsored, to be officially recognised and supported, and given opportunities to grow their personal profile through social media and media.