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Carolyn Hadley, Head of Human Resource Services, Catholic Education Office, Diocese of Wollongong

Congratulations on winning our Parents@Work competition: Be Our Guest at the AHRI Diversity and Inclusion Conference. Your submission was excellent, not to mention the initiatives the Catholic Education Office (CEO) have set up to support working parents.

Could you start by telling us a bit about you and your role at CEO?

As the eldest of three girls who went to an all-girls school and progressed into a female dominated profession, I have been a consistent advocate of equal opportunity in the workplace. Moving through a career as a teacher to school leadership to human resources leadership, I now have a role that really can make a difference in the policy and practice of equality and inclusivity in the schools and office of our diocesan organisation.

My role as the only female representative on the leadership team is one I take very seriously and a key objective for me is to consult, engage and develop women to expand the leadership team perspective and membership into the future.

What is the CEO’s vision for supporting working parents?

The CEO ensures that it places strategic value on its programs, to lead the way as a genuine employer of choice for women. We do not simply want to be an organisation that has flexible work policies; we want to ensure that our employees feel comfortable in using them.

The CEO’s Teachers Sharing Teaching initiative is quite innovative. Could you tell us how it started?

A review of our workplace demographics in 2009 indicated that our workforce was 80% female. This fact alone meant that it was an absolute imperative that we established ways to retain our female employees, as well as creating a culture of flexibility where employees felt valued, supported and encouraged to reach their full potential.

Our Teachers Sharing Teaching strategy was developed to allow our organisation to lead the way in gender equality by sending a clear message to all of our staff that we are truly committed to creating a workplace which offers genuine initiatives that give positive results for women in their working and personal lives. Strategically we needed to give value to programs that supported women to ensure the future retention and attraction of quality teachers across our system and the ability for the organisation to provide quality learning outcomes to students.

What can working parents access via Teachers Sharing Teaching?
  • Teachers Sharing Teaching: A School Resource Kit
  • Teachers Sharing Teaching: Promotional DVD
  • Teachers Sharing Teaching: Workshops
  • An all-inclusive Working Parents Toolkit (filled with practical information and advice)
  • Staying in Touch Seminars (an innovative initiative arranged to provide an opportunity for parents (and expectant parents) to attend a briefing by the Head of Human Resource Services about the Working Parents Toolkit and relevant policies, as well as practice networking opportunities with other parents)
  • Flexible Work Arrangements to Enhance Work/Life Balance Policy
  • Flexible Work Arrangements in Leadership Roles Policy.

We also have an active Workplace Gender Equality Committee (WGEC) that influences and champions these initiatives. See our Committee’s YouTube movie here.

How did you develop Teachers Sharing Teaching?

The development of the “Teachers Sharing Teaching” strategy involved a significant consultation process that included surveys, workshops and focus groups with representatives from each of our employee groups. These groups included CEO office staff, Principals, teachers, school support officers, the WGEC and the Independent Education Union.

How have your leaders supported this strategy?

The CEO has given strategic value to Teachers Sharing Teaching and has been driven from the top down, and has been instrumental in embedding a culture that truly supports and encourages working parents sending a message to employees that having children and work life effectiveness is supported and achievable. More importantly, it reduces potential for marginalisation and discrimination that working mothers can experience when returning from parental leave.

What results have you seen since the implementation of Teachers Sharing Teaching?

The impact of the Teachers Sharing Teaching strategy on the organisation and on our female employees has been the development of a workplace culture embedded with accessible initiatives that genuinely support, encourage and promote all our female employees to positively advance their careers during their journey of motherhood. The barriers identified as preventing women being able to balance their professional careers and parenting have been significantly minimised.

What are your personal strategies for juggling your family and work commitments?

I do spend long days in the office and my best time of day is the early morning. However I don’t then take work home and I make a determined effort to keep home and work as separate spaces in my life. I have always started early, but when my daughter was young I ensured that I would pick her up in the afternoon 2-3 days a week. Setting boundaries around work and family life is crucial.

What’s the best strategy you’ve heard another working parent use to achieve a work-life balance?

I think working from home and job share strategies are some of the most effective I have seen, but I have also seen arrangements where husbands and wives work half a year in one full time position that alternated between them. They were both teachers and each was keen to stay connected to work.  So they negotiated such that the mother worked full time for half a year and the father worked full time the other half.