Monthly Archives: April 2015

Strategy key to improving workplace gender equality

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A comprehensive strategy is key to achieving workplace gender equality, but knowing where to get started is a common obstacle to developing one, according to two experts.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency has developed a roadmap that tracks organisations’ gender equality progress through six phases, say Dr Heidi Sundin and Emily Cappas, from the Agency’s education and innovation division.

“The first phase is the avoiding phase, and we’ve labelled that ‘zero’ because essentially that means that either gender equality is not on the radar of the organisation or, if it is, the organisation has determined that that’s not something they see as a priority or want to take action on,” they told a recent HR Daily Premium webcast.

The remaining five phases comprise:

    1. Compliant – Organisations report to the WGEA and comply with various pieces of legislation in relate to discrimination, sex-based harassment, etc;
    2. Programmatic – Organisations have lots of programs that drive gender equality, such as return-to-work or flexible work schemes but no overarching strategy;
    3. Strategic – Organisations have a gender equality strategy that is aligned with their business strategy and has specific timeframes and resources allocated to it;
    4. Integrated – Organisations have a strategy and are starting to put the infrastructure, policies, and procedures in place to support it;
    5. Sustainable – Organisations culturally embed gender equality into everyday decisions and activities.

For employers at the beginning of their gender equality journey, Sundin and Cappas recommend starting in either the compliance or strategic phase.

“Many of our organisations… will be reporting to the [WGEA] and that’s a great place to start, because through that process they’ll have a systematic review across six gender equality indicators on a whole range of gender equality reporting matters, so you’d be able to get a really good picture as to where you are and, with the benchmark data, that would also give you a picture of how you’re performing against your industry and against organisations overall,” they say.

“We also know that some organisations do want to move more quickly along the gender equality journey, and so for them we’d recommend starting out with a gender equality strategy and jumping straight into the strategic phase.”

While organisations in the programmatic phase have “done a lot of hard yards”, Sundin and Cappas advise against starting here because these companies still need to consolidate their activities under a strategy.

“Then [they must] undertake an assessment to see whether or not those are the right priorities [and] whether or not they need to be re-focused and investment directed into other areas to achieve gender equality more quickly.”

How to plot your organisation’s progress

Employers should assess their organisation against 12 areas to determine where they sit on the gender equality roadmap, say Sundin and Cappas.

“These are what we see at the [WGEA] as the 12 areas of gender equality that really need to be thought through systematically to again understand where you are and where you want to go. These do relate to reporting matters and also to the Employer of Choice for Gender Equality criteria,” they say.

“These 12 areas are: stakeholder engagement; leadership accountability; strategy and business case; measurement and reporting systems; policies and processes; supply chain; gender composition; gender pay equity; flexibility; talent pipeline; leader and manager capability; and a gender inclusive culture.”

Stakeholder communication and engagement, for example, pertains to any groups of individuals with an interest in or ability to influence gender equality in an organisation.

“The question is here, where is your organisation in terms of engaging all of those different stakeholders? Are you in phase zero, one, two, three, four or five? So, for example, are you in the compliance phase where your organisation sees government or regulators as the key stakeholders because of their role in gender equality?” they say.

“Are you more in the strategic phase where you identify all of the stakeholders who play a role and engage those stakeholders?”

Plotting this out is a subjective process but that in itself makes it a useful conversational device, say Sundin and Cappas.

“Getting people to put down what their views are on this can really help to uncover views that… you may not have been aware of… before and it can really get the conversation starting in areas you might not have realised are important,” they say.

“We would recommend using it as a conversation tool and potentially surveying different stakeholders within the organisation to understand how they see the position of the organisation in each of those 12 areas.

“You may want to also present some sort of summary-of-findings report to the management team to get them on board with where the key areas for development are and what you key strength areas are.”

After the “diagnosis phase” is done, organisations can use the information it reveals about their priorities and strengths to inform their workplace gender equality strategy, say Sundin and Cappas.

Watch the full presentation here for more tips for advancing your organisation’s workplace gender equality efforts. (HR Daily Premium content – upgrade here for access).

Source: HR Daily

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Women in Leadership

Why the gap between policy & practice in flexible work is costing women their careers

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The last five years have seen an increase in comprehensive policiesproviding access to flexible work, but these policies are not being effectively employed in practice, according to new research. 

The University of Sydney Business School’s Women and Work Research Group has conducted a study involving in-depth interviews with employees and line managers about the implementation of the company’s flexible work policies – and the results were disappointing.

The study’s co-author Dr Rae Cooper told Women’s Agenda that the growth in strong flexible work policies, both at a company and a national level, in recent years is encouraging, but that it appears there is a disconnect between the way the policies are written and the way they are implemented

“We’ve seen more significant developments in policies surrounding access to flexible work in the last five years than we’ve ever seen before in Australia’s history. Governments and organisations have put a lot of effort into designing good policies for keeping women attached to the labour force after having children,” Dr Cooper said.

“But our study shows a dissonance between the policies’ intentions and their outcomes. We found that these policies are not being effectively borne out in practice and employees are not receiving the benefits they are entitled to.”

So if the policy framework has been developed and is theoretically effective, what is going wrong?

Dr Cooper says the disconnect between the policy and the practice is a result of a lack of awareness among both employees and managers about the how the policy it meant to operate.

“This means that managers are not offering employees the full benefits they are entitled to by the policy because the managers themselves do not have adequate information and training.”

“We spoke to employees in organisations with very strong flexible work policies who approached managers and were told, ‘we don’t do flexible work here’, when of course this was not the case.”

Dr Cooper said the effort put into developing sound policies is wasted if they are not properly understood by those operationalising them. This lack of understanding at manager level means that employees are missing out on flexible working arrangements that both national and organisational policies entitle them to.

“It is so important that companies have strong policies on flexible work, but they will not reap the benefits they are intended to if line managers are acting as gate keepers to those policies.”

Dr Cooper said employees’ lack of awareness of their own entitlements is also creating a barrier to access.

“We were very surprised at how low the levels of understanding of flexibility policies was among employees. We found that employees had a general understanding that they were entitled to ask for part time work, but they did not have an understanding of how these arrangements actually work in terms of things like pay, bonuses, workload and job design,” she said.

Dr Cooper said this has lead to employees asking for reduced hours, but failing to negotiate the broader implications of the change. She said employees need to be asking questions about what their new expected productivity and output would be, who would complete the extra work and how their new role would be designed.

“Failing to negotiate these implications often means that women ask for reduced hours, but feel under pressure to produce the same amount of work, so they just end up doing full time work and only receiving part time pay.”

This dissonance between policy and practice means women are often still sacrificing career progression for flexibility and according to Dr Cooper, this needs to change.

“We need to get rid of the idea that in order to work flexibly you have to sacrifice career success,” she said.

“Today in Australia we have the most highly educated female labour force in the world, and we owe it to those women, our society and our economy to not waste that talent.”

By: Lucia Osborne-Crowley

Source: Women’s Agenda

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