There are many benefits to businesses that embrace gender diversity beyond simply avoiding anti-discrimination laws – a fact that more and more organisations are recognising.
The Workplace Gender Equality Agency recently included 106 employers on its Employer of Choice list, up from 90 the year before. However, there is still a way to go in Australia when it comes to gender equality.
In December 2016, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) announced the 106 employers that had made it onto its Employer of Choice list for gender equality. The number had increased from the previous year’s 90, despite the addition of seven new prerequisites for being cited on the list, such as having formal equity policies that address recruitment, retention, performance management and training.
The latest list saw an increase in companies from traditionally male-dominated industries, including transport, engineering and manufacturing, with WGEA strategy and engagement executive manager Jackie Woods praising innovative programs that provide support for women gaining male-dominated managerial and technical roles.
Gender equality means equality for all genders, and this year WGEA highlighted a trend among its employers of choice of encouraging parental leave for men and flexible work arrangements for all employees. Breaking down gender segregation in both male- and female-dominated industries is critical for gender equality, noted Ms Woods.
Not only is discriminating on the basis of gender unlawful, but companies that fail to achieve gender equality miss out on a host of benefits that their more egalitarian counterparts enjoy.
WGEA states that improving gender equality can have:
- positive impacts on organisational culture and operations, with increased efficiency, productivity, innovation, creativity and improved employee engagement
- greater ability to attract talent, with positive workplace cultures and flexible working conditions important for attracting top talent in all industries
- enhanced ability to retain talented employees, with workplaces that support gender equality less likely to suffer from high staff turnover
- improved organisational reputation, with a reduced risk of workplace discrimination cases.
Furthermore, achieving gender equality is also linked to the whole nation’s economic performance, as it is associated with improved national productivity and economic growth. Indeed, Goldman Sachs & JBWere estimates that closing the female–male employment would boost the Australian GDP by 11%.
While it’s encouraging to see the positive trend in WGEA’s growing Employer of Choice list, as the agency’s director, Libby Lyons, commented: “There is progress towards gender equality in Australian workplaces, but it is too slow.” In Australia, women continue to earn less than men, are less likely to advance their careers as far as men, and accumulate less retirement or superannuation savings. Meanwhile, men have less access to family-friendly policies or flexible working arrangements than women.
While the reasons for gender inequality are undoubtedly complex, unconscious bias – where hidden or unacknowledged beliefs and attitudes influence decisions – is thought to be a significant factor. In an attempt to reduce unconscious bias in its hiring practices, the Victorian State Government is currently conducting an 18 month trial whereby names, ages and genders are removed from job applications.
- As well as boosting the whole nation’s economic performance, better gender diversity in workplaces has a positive impact on workplace culture, which can lead to improved efficiency, productivity and creativity. It can also enhance organisations’ ability to attract and retain staff and reduce risk of reputational damage.
Thinking about how to improve equal opportunity and gender diversity in the workplace?
Learning Seat provides training that increases awareness of unconscious bias and educates businesses and employees about how it can avoided. Learning Seat regularly works with organisations of all sizes by providing online learning on equal opportunity in employment and gender diversity in the workplace. Learn more about how you can bring our training solutions to your organisation by getting in touch with us today.