Diversity Case Study Series: CHE Proximity

Diversity Case Study Series: CHE Proximity

Changing the Ratio has been and gone – but that doesn’t mean the fight for a diverse and inclusive industry is over. Which is why we’ve created our very own diversity centre!

You’ll find it in a tab on the Changing the Ratio website right here.

All you have to do it make a (free) log-in and you’ll find yourself drowning in a wealth of super useful, mind-blowing information surrounding inclusion and diversity.

We’ve got some pretty stellar case studies on the website – and they’re so good we’ve decided to create a series of them! Only part of it is published here though, so you’ll have to head to the website to check out the whole thing.

The last case study we looked at was The Royals, and now it’s time for CHE Proximity!

When CEO of CHE Proximity, Chris Howatson, was growing up, both his parents worked, but his mother was the main bread-winner and his father did all the after-school pick-ups and activities with him and his siblings.

And then, in his formative years in the advertising industry, he worked in an environment where there wasn’t any overt gender bias.

But he’s witnessed plenty of misogynistic behaviour in the industry and has been giving the issues of gender equality, diversity and inclusion his formal attention since about mid-2016.


Howatson sees equality as an attitude and a philosophy about how people get treated in the agency.

“Regardless of their gender, their age, whether they play in a band or are introverted or extroverted, everyone has a right to live their lives the way they do and to be valued for who they are,” he said.

He believes that equality is the greatest imperative, because if that doesn’t exist, diversity and inclusion are unachievable.

Howatson asked his CFO to audit the payroll, pay reviews and the size of pay increases of their 320 employees to kick the formal process off.

Because CHE Proximity had benchmarks in place for each role, no issues were found in the audit. (The head of people now conducts a quarterly review of all new employees’ salaries and manages all pay reviews.)

However, there were no written policies around gender equality, so these were put in place.

This led to the agency’s enviable 100 per cent rate of return from maternity leave. Not only do they now offer a three- or four-day week for returning mothers, but they pay them for one extra day.

Forty-eight per cent of the agency’s senior leadership roles are held by women, although the three most significant ones at the apex are occupied by men. Flexibile hours are available to all employees and the female:male ratio in the agency is 56:44.

The bottom line

“Without a doubt, if we didn’t have the senior women we have and the work they do, we’d lose $10 million tomorrow without their skills.

“Our ability to recruit talented women who are in the stage of life where they are having families has also improved because we already have other women like them in senior positions. It’s opened up 100 per cent of the recruitment market to us,” Howatson said. 

“I don’t think it [creating an equal, diverse and inclusive environment] costs anything extra. All the processes such as recruitment and remuneration policies are in place. You just need a lens of equality over the top that is no cost to the business.”

Read the full case study here – but make a log-in first!

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