The Diversity Debate Isn’t Going Anywhere

Gender equality of man and woman on a balance

Diversity in the workplace seems to be a hot topic of late, and so it should be. In fact it’s a debate that’s been going on for as long as we have all been on this earth.

I spent a recent lunchtime out with the fantastic movement that is ‘Strut your stuff’ in Sydney.

For the fifth and final time, thousands of people lined Martin Place to show that we are still fighting for indigenous rights here in Australia. There’s a late of hatred in today’s society, with unrest in many parts of the world, but you only had to look at the glint in the children’s eyes as they performed a beautiful little concert, that there is potential in the future of humanity.

I’d like to share a blog which was shared this week from PwC, in their response to the key findings in ‘Australia’s gender equality scorecard.’

I feel particularly passionate about this subject working within the public relations/communication sector. It’s widely known that the demographic within the PR industry is 75% female, yet at the business management level, females are still lagging behind with it comes to senior positions and salaries – why is that? I think the report below identifies some of the key areas that need important, and I think it’s great that ‘One of the big ones’ is trying to tackle this ongoing issue.

The recent report from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) confirms what we have known for a long time about female representation in leadership ranks, but also highlights the difference between policies and deliberate strategies. Strategies require leadership commitment, policies are too easy to ignore. Almost all employers have a policy on harassment and discrimination, but only 7% have a strategy to address it. There’s the gap right there in really seeing change take place.

The report also highlights that data is critical for assessing progress, and we know that what gets measured, gets done. Tangible steps like gender pay gap audits are critical for driving change. We audit other important measures, why not pay outcomes?

Why is increasing female workforce participation important to PwC?

PwC recognise that increasing female workforce participation will help to unleash the full potential of talent into leadership roles. This is why our firm is committed to building a diverse and inclusive firm for female staff.

We know from recent focus groups with female staff across Australia, that fostering inclusion, promoting broad perspectives and driving diverse career opportunities, are key to increasing participation rates.

We also know that gender equality is also about men having more choice and breaking down stereotypical ideas of what men and women can and should, be doing. A recent example of this is the number of men at PwC taking parental leave when their partner returns to work. This is a real example of gender equality and helps drive change at a broader societal level, as those men experience time at home with their kids, before returning to work.

How is PwC addressing gender disparity within the firm?

Enhancing diversity and inclusion is a critical part of our vision, values and strategy. We want to create a workforce that makes females feel valued and enables them to reach their full career potential.

The first step towards this was the appointment of our first chief diversity and inclusion officer, Marcus Laithwaite, in July 2014. Since then, Marcus and his team have been working to create PwC’s first Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, which will be implemented in 2015. Activities will kick-off with a comprehensive review of our policies and practices around culture and gender.

PwC is also working with clients on all types of diversity and inclusion issues. While gender is important, there are other dimensions to consider to realise the potential of our people.

How will your senior leadership team support your diversity and inclusion strategy?

The CEO of PwC Australia, Luke Sayers, is taking personal accountability for our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, as part of his personal performance plan. Luke will be a member of the firms Diversity Advisory Board.

Luke will be supported by our partner group, who have undertaken leadership training on unconscious bias around diversity and inclusion.

What challenges is PwC facing in overcoming gender disparity?

We recognise there are many challenges in overcoming gender disparity and no one has all the answers in the diversity space. For these reasons, under our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, we will continue to work hand in glove with our clients, industry and government, to ensure we create better outcomes for our female staff and Australian society as a whole.

As part of this, it will be important to learn from others’ experiences, as well as sharing what we learn along our diversity and inclusion journey.

What advice would you give new female employees to ensure that they reach their full career potential?

Female employees should take personal responsibility for working alongside their employer, educators and government to create the workplace of their future.

It will also be critical for women to change their mind-set about progressing into leadership roles, as cultural and structural barriers are removed.

Thanks to one of our 2014 PRIA Conference presenters, Vanessa Domaschenz of PwC for sharing her insights on gender disparity in leadership positions.

Read the full blog here.