10 Things Your Workplace Can Do To Drive Gender Equality

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When it comes to enabling gender equality, there’s more we can all be doing. Here, we share ten smart strategies to level the playing field in workplaces across the nation.

With women accounting for just 16.5% of Australian CEOs and women seven times more likely to leave the workforce during parental leave (WGEA), it’s time to take a step back and reflect. What can we do in our own workplaces to address our gendered expectations?

1. Create a vision for gender equality and define what success looks like

What does gender equality look like for your organisation? Is it equal male and female representation at leadership level? Is it closing the gap in retirement savings between your male and female employees? What values & behaviours will you reward?

2. Adopt best practice paid parental leave policies for all employees, and advocate for government policy change

Just 45.9 per cent of employers offer paid parental leave (PPL) for primary carers (WGEA) as a top up to the Government’s 18 weeks at the minimum wage. PPL supports parents and babies on a range of health and wellbeing criteria, and enables women to return to work. Providing mums and dads with 18 weeks of PPL at the replacement wage, plus superannuation, with zero qualifying period is a game changer.

3. Cultivate a culture where employees feel authorised to call out bias and discrimination

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. CEOs must use strong language when talking about bias, discrimination and harassment, and demonstrate that there is zero tolerance for it. But if they also invite employees to raise concerns and ask for the chance to right a wrong, they enable a culture where employees can speak up without fear.

4. Close the gender pay gap in retirement

Considering women are 2.5 times more likely to retire in poverty than men, Viva Energy is an example of how a defined vision for gender equality inspires action. In August 2017, the company became the first in Australia to offer a full-time superannuation contribution of 12% for the paid and unpaid components of employees’ parental leave, and pay the full-time super contribution for the first five years if they choose to return to work in a part-time capacity.

5. Provide a sponsor and education for the person taking parental leave

You don’t know what you need until you wish you’d had it. Such is the case for education, professional development and coaching for parents-to-be as they navigate pregnancy, parental leave and their return to work. Primary carers can miss out on great career opportunities in the lead up to and during parental leave, but when leaders proactively sponsor carers, employers retain their best talent, and women’s careers advance.

6. Conduct a performance and pay review for every employee before they go on parental leave

Pay and performance go hand in hand, and upcoming parental leave shouldn’t stand in the way of an employee being suitably remunerated and acknowledged. To close the gender pay gap (currently 15%), ensure salaries are pegged to the job rather than the person, allow for out-of-cycle reviews to accommodate parental leavers, and set aside special budgets to close the gender pay gap.

7. Measure engagement with flexible work arrangements

Punishing and inflexible work hours are career limiting to employees who require flexibility. Use engagement surveys to ask staff if they feel they can ask for flexibility, and measure any increase in female participation, as it is likely to be directly correlated with access to flexibility. Monitor the uptake of formal flexibility by women and men, and redesign senior roles to be able to be performed part-time.

8. Set targets around the number of male employees taking parental leave, and establish initiatives that enable you to reach the target

Women continue to perform 2.5 times the domestic and caring work as their male partners - an entrenched gendered norm. Actively encouraging male employees to take extended parental leave and work flexibly sets change in motion, in terms of workplace culture and family dynamic.

9. Scrutinise redundancies of those on parental leave, who work part time and are expectant mothers

If any part time employees, expectant mothers or employees on parental leave have been made redundant in your workplace, actively investigate why and how it came about. Identify any trends and commonalities to enable you to take steps to prevent it from happening in the future.

10. Consciously consider expectant mothers, part time employees and those on parental leave for promotions

It’s good for business to promote talented employees, and promotions in the workplace should go to the best candidate. All too often, candidates who are soon to become parents, are on parental leave or work part time are overlooked for promotions, to the detriment of the employee and the employer. The key is redesigning these roles to be part-time.

DiscriminationPrue Gilbert