Tracksuit’s Christine van Hoffen: ‘We’re At The “Cutting Edge” Of Workplace Equality’

Tracksuit’s Christine van Hoffen: ‘We’re At The “Cutting Edge” Of Workplace Equality’

Christine van Hoffen is on the phone from Auckland chatting about her recent Women Leading Tech Awards People & Culture win.

Starting at the New Zealand-based brand tracking company Tracksuit as employee number 12, she now heads up the People team and explains it was her own experience that was the force for change.

“I was off on maternity leave from another role and decided that I couldn’t go back full time as it was too time-intensive. I was looking around for a part time job, but they were very low paid and I couldn’t really see much opportunity for career progression — which I think is a huge problem for women coming back. I kind of stumbled into this job at Tracksuit, part-time, with an initiative that supported me coming back, where I was going to work two days and they would pay me for 2.5 days.

“Women coming back into the workforce part-time tend to earn less per hour and take roles that are valued less than full-time roles. So it was quite a statement from the company, like — ‘Hey, this is the salary we have for the role, we’ve budgeted X, but acknowledging that you’ve got a baby, you’re coming back, you’re doing all of this unpaid labour, you’re basically becoming a statistic at this point of women who come back to lower paid jobs — we acknowledge that and we’ll pay you an extra half a day a week.’ So I came in on that agreement and then we started doing quite well, we raised our seed round and started hiring quite frantically and realised that this was a really strong message to other women who were coming back to work, so we formalised it into a policy.”

Van Hoffen said the policy ensures that every primary care giver working at Tracksuit is given the option of a part-time role. Full-time roles include an option to work four days while being paid an extra half day to close the gap. Van Hoffen is passionate about the strong message being sent to primary candidates and women returning to work.

Van Hoffen added that the approach comes from the top, with many senior leaders having children.

“We have a parent’s Slack channel so anyone at Tracksuit can see the senior leaders nip off to do a pickup.,” she said.

“For better or worse, people will emulate leadership and people who are in leadership. This is from CEOs to managers and a wide spectrum of parent employees, knowing that they’re still going to deliver what needs to be delivered because they’ll work around it, which leads to such a positive culture in accepting people’s lifestyles.”

The flexibility for parents has extended to all employee lifestyles, making Tracksuit a “come as you are” workplace. Employees have responded positively, making for a happy, transparent and authentic workplace.

Van Hoffen said her previous roles have been centred around office cultures where women take a maximum of three months of parental leave. She believes this sets a benchmark and “if you try to push against that, you’re kind of seen as being a little bit too slack or your priorities aren’t aligned.”

Van Hoffen said this culture includes taking annual leave and not working on weekends.

“Leadership needs to have the responsibility to act how they want the rest of the company to act because everyone will copy what leadership does.”

The recent revelations on gender pay gap have only galvanised van Hoffen’s resolve.

“My MBA thesis was actually on pay transparency and the gender pay gap,” she explained.

“I expect salary transparency to become much more mainstream quite quickly. Gen Z and young millennials are going to take over the workforce by 2030 or so, and they are so overwhelmingly positive about transparency that they demand it.”

“At Tracksuit, our salary transparency is quite a unique selling point,” she said, while declaring that the pay policy is the way of the future.

How does Australia’s gender pay gap compare with other countries? Van Hoffen is optimistic, “Australia has at least made an effort to set up a country-wide law that requires companies to actually report on gaps. A lot of places including New Zealand don’t have that.”

And her advice to other employers? Van Hoffen said that smaller companies have a significant competitive advantage over large corporations.

“At Tracksuit, we’re on the cutting edge of these kinds of initiatives”, and she doesn’t see big companies incorporating this type of employee transparency for some time.

“It’s very resource-intensive to set up if you’re a large company,” she explained.

“And flexibility. If people have to work from home. Parents are really good managers of tasks and time, they have dependents, so they’re not going to slack off.”

“I don’t think I’ve worked anywhere else where the CEO can walk out at three o’clock to pick up his daughter from daycare. Our CEO works extremely hard and he’ll be back online later that night and that’s what it’s about, the new way of working, working when it suits you, around your lifestyle.”

As a working mother, the author of this story is sending van Hoffen her resume imminently!




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