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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