Over the past 20 years, most businesses have come to accept that promoting gender equality in their workplace is good practice. The social and economic benefits generated by diverse organisations are well-cited, but how do workplaces make sure their gender policies continue to create a positive impact.
Headquartered in Cairns, My Pathway is an organisation that actively pursues gender equality and helps their clients’ overcome challenges that may be experienced differently by men and women in the workplace. They are well-placed to affect change, employing 700 people nationally, helping the unemployed into work, supporting employers to diversify their workforces and mentoring business start-ups.
My Pathway’s CEO, Paul Synnott, is a strong advocate for enabling gender equality. He has remained committed to creating a more gender balanced company based on values and merit.
“Every policy and initiative we’ve put in place to help men and women thrive at work must align with our organisations’ values,” he said.
“For instance, we focus on societal issues such as mental health, community networks, domestic violence and relationships that are often experienced differently for men and women with unique stigmas attached. These are underlying issues that contribute to workplace gender inequality especially in regional and remote regions where we operate.
“There is some pressure to meet particular targets or criteria, and we’re careful to do that only if we continue to have a positive impact on our people and communities.
“I work alongside talented women and men everyday who bring different perspectives and skills to our organisation. They also have a range of personal circumstances and responsibilities that might affect how they perform their job.
“In 2020, I’ll be putting the microscope over our development and promotion processes to make sure we are taking a merit-based approach that is free from gender biases.”
Progress has stepped up when it comes to gender equality, but lifestyle choices are changing just as quickly. The way we live, how we spend time with family and friends or what we do with our free time can impact the support and flexibility that might be required at work.
Operations Manager, Paul Carney, agreed the way organisations addressed gender equality needed to reflect broader social change.
“The bills, the school drop-offs, the doctor appointments and all the other things that go along with running a household are a much easier job if there’s two of you doing it. Employers have needed to keep pace and recognise that both men and women have commitments outside their work,” he said.
“Many people are looking for more than just money when they’re choosing an employer. To get the best talent and retain great staff we need to ensure we’re addressing issues like gender equality and flexibility.
“We have access to so many mobile technologies now, which makes it easier for work to complement our lives, rather than take them over.”
General Manager, Rob Tippins, has managed large teams for more than a decade and said that flexibility was key to getting the best performance from his teams.
“As a team, we’ve designed a work roster around our business and personal needs. It means that collectively, we’re thinking about our parenting responsibilities, health requirements or other commitments and how we can best contribute to our business,” he said.
“In my experience, recognising people’s individual stress points and providing relevant support enables a positive work environment where people give their best.
“Personally, I’ve adjusted the hours I’m in the office and have accessed carers and personal leave. It’s meant I can continue progressing my career while meeting my family responsibilities.”
Its clear that gender equality has become a cornerstone of successful companies in Australia. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency has reported that more than 75 per cent of employers now have a gender equality strategy and women comprise 39.4 percent of all managers.
General Manager, Sonya Bewick, acknowledged she’d always worked for companies that valued gender equality and had actively promoted equal opportunity.
“I don’t think accessibility to executive roles and senior leadership positions for women happened overnight. It takes employers like My Pathway actively working to promote and create an environment where both women and men are seizing opportunities.
“I believe opportunities present themselves every day, but its your personality type that determines if you pursue them.”