The Change From Within


It’s always wonderful to celebrate International Women’s Day! We are inspired by the efforts and achievements made over the last 30 years to improve the participation and representation of women in Australian workplaces. Our workplaces are greatly improved as a result. 

But despite much research and data published on key topics from flexibility and childcare to the gender pay gap –  progress for women in our workplaces remains slow.

This is a serious economic issue for women and Australia alike. A Grattan Institute report revealed in 2014 that an increase in the participation rates of women in the labour market by 6% would result in a twenty-five billions dollar increase to Australia’s GDP.

A revealing survey of Australian and New Zealand business offers further insight into the slow progress on achieving an increase in gender diversity. The survey found that while more than eighty percent of respondents - all HR and Diversity staff – considered the senior level management were the most important people contributing to the success of the Diversity and Inclusion programs in the organisation but said that they did not participate in the programs. It also identified that more than half the businesses surveyed described their organisation’s approach to their Diversity and Inclusion program as at a ‘compliance at best’ or ‘foundation stage only’ level. Sixty percent of the respondents felt unprepared to meet the organisation’s challenge with no or limited experience or exposure to successful change or similar Diversity roles.

A good example of how to drive a successful workplace cultural change program is described in a study of the Engineering sector and refers to the successful introduction of safety culture into the sector over twenty-years. While this required considerable behavioural change it is an approach that could be applied to increase gender diversity. 

Key drivers of the changed needed are well known, namely, a commitment from the CEO and a continuous approach to educating our workforce and senior management to lead and drive the necessary change in culture. Research specifically what your organisation’s diversity needs are to inform your strategic approach and then focus on monitoring, measuring and educating across the business. Make sure everyone- especially senior managers - know what needs to be done to capitalise on the economic benefit resulting from an increase in the women’s participation and diversity in the organisation. 

susan whillas