Inspiring initiatives light the way for women at work
A new research report identifies innovative workplace programs that improve gender diversity.
A new research report from the University of Technology Sydney identifies innovative programs from around the world that have successfully increased the participation and advancement of women in the workplace.
“We know that companies are setting targets for diversity, but this research looks at the practical means of actually hitting those targets; initiatives that can be easily implemented and make a difference,” says report co-author Dr Alice Klettner from UTS Business School.
“These are programs that demonstrate real traction in creating greater gender balance and improving the position of women in the workplace, leading to more productive and dynamic businesses,” she says.
Despite various reforms in Australia and internationally, there is strong evidence that women still face many obstacles in the labour market, including discrimination, persistently inadequate work-life balance policies, and attrition on the management ladder.
Motherhood in particular brings a wage penalty, while fatherhood is associated with a wage premium, according to a recent global wage report. This reflects the “double burden” syndrome, where work and domestic responsibilities combine to reduce workplace equality.
These issues are not just a problem for women, they are a problem for society and the economy, which is less productive and less integrated as a result.
Report co-author UTS Professor Thomas Clarke
“The statistics are irrefutable; the latest McKinsey reports demonstrate that the global economy is losing $25 trillion in productivity as a result of discrimination against women in the labour market. That is a quarter increase, if we overcame this problem, in global productivity,” Professor Clarke says.
As part of the report, the UTS researchers created a ‘Gender Equality in the Workplace Index’ that looks at the participation of women at all stages in the career progression pipeline, from recruitment and advancement to executive positions and the representation of women on boards.
The case studies they highlight tackle issues such as improving the gender pay gap, breaking the glass ceiling, tackling the care penalty, better valorising women’s skills and efforts, combating segregation in occupations and uncovering inequalities and stereotypes.
“What is surprising is that some of the most successful initiatives are also some of the simplest solutions, for example interviewing staff and finding out where the problems are and dealing with them,” says Dr Klettner.
“What we found is that some companies are able to introduce much better opportunities for their female employees, without any great difficulty – and achieve significant results quite quickly,” she says.
The report ‘Improving Gender Diversity in Companies 2020’ was commissioned by Stewart Investors and supported by the UTS Centre for Business and Social Innovation and the Institute for Sustainable Futures, with Alison Atherton and Keren Winterford collaborating in the research.
Examples of breakthrough initiatives highlighted in the report include:
- BHP’s Balance for better culture, organisation and retention – this initiative sets an aspirational goal to achieve gender balance across BHP by 2025 to harness the potential of a more inclusive and diverse workplace by embedding flexible working and eliminating potential bias in systems and processes.
- Ely Lilly’s Employee Journeys and People – this strategy aims to understand the specific nature of women’s employment in the US based health care company. The company employs 47% women, but this drops off in senior management ranks. The aim is to create a more inclusive leadership – valuing differences, overcoming bias, and fostering a ‘speak up’ culture.
- Aviva’s – Equal Parental Leave Programme – an inclusive policy offering equal parental leave to remove barriers to career progression. The UK based insurance company offers up to one year of leave, of which the first 26 weeks is at full basic pay for each parent employed by the company. The aims is to allow all parents to have a successful career, regardless of gender.
- Takeda’s – Accelerated Promotion Policy – entrenched gender segregation is still apparent in Japan, and Takeda, a leading pharmaceutical company, is tackling this head-on with an accelerated promotion strategy for women. This includes ambitious targets and initiatives to support early career promotion of women demonstrating performance, supported by training programs on empowerment and self-leadership.