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How industry is tackling gender equality

by Matt Smith | 12 Jul 2017

National Australia Bank and HESTA are among eight institutions singled out for their use of smart strategies to create gender equality in the workplace by the Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency.1 How industry is tackling gender equality

Superannuation provider HESTA has been recognised for its pay gap analysis, which has led to an overhaul of the company’s processes aimed at increasing the equality of access to career development opportunities within the company.

The analysis by HESTA resulted in a program to ensure part-timers receive the same budget for training and development as full-timers, according to a Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) report, released in the last week.

NAB, meanwhile, has developed a self-service, flexible-working intranet site where employees can manage their formal or informal flexible working arrangements directly with their manager, ranging from part-time and remote working, to job share and transition to retirement, according to WGEA.

Griffith University, Mercy Health, accounting software provider, MYOB, ASX-listed gold miner, St Barbara, property group, Stockland, and healthcare company, Benetas, were among the eight companies highlighted by the government agency in its report published in July.

Creating flexibility

The difficulty for women who work part-time to access career development opportunities is one of the main reasons the national gender pay gap is currently 16 per cent, Libby Lyons,

WGEA Director, highlights.

Meanwhile, flexibility is linked to improved gender equality outcomes by assisting employees to manage work and caring responsibilities, Lyons states.

Sixteen per cent of organisations reporting to WGEA have a flexible working strategy and 52 per cent have a flexible working policy, she notes.

Finding and profiling organisations using smart strategies to create greater equality between women and men in their workplaces is designed to help employers find “a place to start” when it comes to improving gender equality in the workplace and looking for ways to create lasting change, Lyons notes.

“We know that employers are very interested in effective strategies to address key challenges like pay equity, workforce segregation and women’s leadership representation. We hope these inspiring stories will generate ideas and drive change,” she says.

This publication has highlighted a number of areas within the financial services and investments industry where the issue of gender imbalances relating to pay and culture has been raised.

Acknowledging there’s a problem

Organisations have increasingly been calling out the imbalances relating to gender and setting up programs to address the disparities.

The effort the Reserve Bank of Australia is making to recruit female graduates stands out as a prime example – explained recently by Luci Ellis, the RBA’s Economics assistant governor.

While natural biases exist in the selection process of budding economists during the tertiary and research tenure process which appears to favour males over females, the RBA has been making concerted efforts to rethink its recruitment strategies, Ellis says.

Research and investment firm, Mercer, recently highlighted that funds management firms naturally lack the ability to select female portfolio managers.

Mercer points out the possibility that the lack of diversity within these investment firms could be stunting the progress of gender diversity at the corporate board and executive management level.

Colonial First State acknowledges that females are underrepresented within its own ranks of portfolio managers and raises ways to address the imbalance, in its latest Responsible Investing and Stewardship Report – InFinance highlights.

Gender imbalances in finance are often traced back to the education system and the male preference for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, a topic recently raised by the Office of the Chief Scientist.

Making it happen

In 2016 HESTA began the process of applying for the Employer of Choice for Gender Equality citation and in the process conducted an in-depth gender pay gap analysis to understand the state of gender pay equity within the organisation, according to WGEA.

A detailed look at HESTA’s gender pay gap analysis can be found here.

As part of the analysis, HESTA’s data revealed that flexible work and parental leave arrangements were mostly used by women.

“[N]ot surprising, it started a conversation within the organisation about the societal and business impacts of so few men taking on caring responsibilities,” WGEA notes.

Meanwhile, as part of its promotion and investigation of flexible working, NAB developed an internal website which empowers employees to research flex options, create flexible work proposals and work directly with their manager to find the best flexible working arrangement without having to go through human resources, WEAG highlights.

A detailed look at NAB’s “Flexible Working Toolkit” can be found here.

NAB’s internal website was accessed by more than 4,000 employees in 2016, according to the case study.

In 2015 and 2016, more than 85 per cent of NAB’s employees said that they have the flexibility required to accommodate their work and external priorities, the WEAG case study notes.


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