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Westpac report finds ageism rife in workplace
13 July 2015
Age discrimination is stifling gender diversity and business growth:
- 91 per cent of senior Australian businesspeople believe workplace diversity is good for
- 85 per cent say diverse boards actually perform better financially than organisations
with homogenous boards
- 78 per cent think gender discrimination exists throughout Australian organisations
New research has revealed senior Australian businesspeople believe, on average, 47 years old is when age-related discrimination first becomes a problem for workers in Australian organisations.
Released today, the Westpac Women of Influence Report reveals baby boomers consider this to be due to the perception that older workers have outdated skills (84 per cent) and a perceived cost saving in hiring younger people (63 per cent).
Westpac’s Director of Women’s Markets Ainslie Van Onselen said, “Ageism in our workforce only compounds the challenges for women to reach senior management positions. With over three quarters of business managers admitting gender discrimination exists throughout Australian companies, women not only have to break the glass ceiling, they also have to combat misconceptions about the ability of mature aged workers to prove their relevance in the workforce.
“Companies can’t survive in today’s competitive environment with a cookie cutter board and senior management – and business managers know it. Increasing the mature age labour force participation rate by only seven per cent could improve Australia’s GDP by $25 billion in 2022*.
"It is crucial for the growth of our nation that our ageing workforce is utilised and part of companies’ employment and business strategy. The majority of senior Australian businesspeople believe workplace diversity is good for business, and almost nine in 10 (85 per cent) say diverse boards perform better financially than organisations with homogenous boards.
“While women do have to fight for senior leadership on two fronts – age and gender – it is positive to hear business is supportive of a systemic shift in culture, with the majority (87 per cent) of senior Australian businesspeople of the view workplace cultures need to change to enable women and men to share work and life responsibilities.
“Westpac recognise both of these challenges and in addition to our aspiration to reach equal representation of men and women in leadership roles in time to celebrate our 200th anniversary as a company in 2017, we also set a target to have more than 20.5 per cent of our workforce aged 50 and above by the same date. We currently have 20.9 per cent of our people aged 50 or over, putting us ahead of target, which has been supported by a number of programs running across the business to ensure the representation of this age segment continues to grow,” she said.
According to the Westpac Women of Influence Report, barriers to women staying in the workforce can be overcome by enabling family-friendly flexible working arrangements for women (61 per cent) and also for men (56 per cent), and by legislating equal remuneration between women and men (45 per cent).
“Almost two thirds (65 per cent) of men believe companies make better decisions with women in their leadership teams. The challenge for business is to create the pathways which are going to allow women to reach their full potential, such as internal recruiting and unconscious bias training for those hiring leaders, inclusive leadership and behaviour programs, development opportunities and training specifically for those returning to work after a career break.
“However, gender equality in business isn’t enough. We need to take advantage of the rich and expansive experience our older workers can provide. According to mature senior businesspeople, they provide the greatest benefit in mentoring less experienced employees and providing historic knowledge of how to solve long-term business problems,” said Ms Van Onselen.
The Westpac Women of Influence Report found, the biggest barriers to managers hiring older workers in their organisation were the perception that older workers are less likely to be up-to-date with current technology (88 per cent) and older workers having higher salary expectations (83 per cent).
The Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards program celebrates outstanding and influential women across corporate, community, culture, public and not-for-profit sectors. Nominations for the 2015 100 Women of Influence Awards are now open and close 9 August 2015. Entries can be submitted online at www.100womenofinfluence.com.au.
* Daley, J., McGannon, C., and Ginnivan, L. 2012, Game-changers: Economic reform priorities for Australia, Grattan Institute, Melbourne.
On average, senior Australian businesspeople believe 47 years old is the age where
age discrimination first becomes a problem for workers in Australian organisations
78 per cent of leaders believe gender discrimination exists throughout Australian
9 in 10 (88 per cent) believe that older workers are underutilised in the Australian
Over 9 in 10 (91 per cent) of managers believe workplace diversity is good for business
Almost 9 in 10 (85 per cent) of managers believe diverse boards actually perform
better financially than organisations with homogenous boards
The top ways Australian leaders believe that barriers for women staying in the
workforce can be overcome are organisations enabling family-friendly flexible working
arrangements for mums (61 per cent), and also for dads (56 per cent) and to legislate
equal remuneration between women and men (45 per cent)
Baby boomers consider the following to be causes of ageism:
o Perception that older workers have outdated skills (84 per cent)
o Perceived cost saving in hiring younger people (63 per cent)
o Younger workers being unsure how to manage older workers (58 per cent)
9 in 10 (88 per cent) managers consider not being up-to-date with current technology
to be a barrier for hiring older workers in their organisation
Over 4 in 5 (83 per cent) consider older workers having higher salary expectations to
be a barrier in their organisation
Almost 9 in 10 (87 per cent) leaders believe there needs to be a shift in workplace
cultures to enable women and men to share work and life responsibilities
2 in 3 (65 per cent) men believe companies make better decisions with women in their
leadership teams and 4 in 5 (81 per cent) women agree
Westpac Women of Influence Report
Fieldwork was conducted between 25 May and 10 June 2015 among 1,701 senior
Australian businesspeople aged 18-65. Respondents were made up of 1,178 women (416
earning over $85,000 a year) and 523 men (303 earning over $85,000 a year) working in a
leadership role. This was defined as: business/owner, manager/executive with
responsibility for overall business performance; or manager/executive who is responsible
for managing a team of people (e.g. more than two employees).
The Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards
The Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards is committed to
increasing the visibility of women’s leadership in Australia, highlighting the important
contribution women make in creating a bold and diverse future for Australia. Launched in 2012,
the program has a new category this year - Culture.
2. Public Policy
4. Business Enterprise
5. Young Leader
10. Social Enterprise and Not-for-profit
Key Dates and How to Enter:
Entries open – Friday, 19 June 2015
Entries close – Sunday, 9 August 2015
Finalists announced in The Australian Financial Review in early October
Entry forms can be downloaded at www.100womenofinfluence.com.au
Completed entries can be uploaded online at www.100womenofinfluence.com.au
For more information about the 2015 100 Women of Influence Awards, please visit
Winners announced – Thursday, 15 October 2015 at a gala event held in Sydney’s
Please join the conversation at #100WOI
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About Westpac Women’s Markets
Westpac was the first Australian bank with a business unit exclusively dedicated to
supporting women – working alongside women to help them build sustainable and
profitable futures via the provision of education, information and networking opportunities
across Australia. Westpac’s Ruby Connection is an interactive online community designed
to inspire, educate, promote and connect Australian women no matter what they do, where
they live and who they bank with. Ruby provides an opportunity for all Australian women to
learn from each other.
Westpac Inclusion and Diversity Credentials
Employees aged 50 and over – Westpac set a target to reach more than 20.5 per
cent of people aged 50 and over by 2017. We currently have 20.9 per cent of our
people aged 50 or over, putting us ahead of target. To ensure this segment continues
to grow, Westpac has implemented a number of programs such as
o ‘Prime of Life’ program comprises of a comprehensive suite of training and
resources, all based around a holistic framework of identity, money, career,
relationships and health.
o The ‘Envisage: Create Your Future’ program assists employees aged 50 and
over with future career planning.
Westpac was recognised as one of the key contributing organisations to the
Department of Employment’s ‘Age Positive Corporate Champions’ program in 2014
and awarded a ‘Best Employer International’ award from the American Association of
Retired Persons (AARP) in 2014
Leadership – Westpac aspire to reach equal representation of men and women in
leadership roles in time to celebrate their 200th anniversary as a company in 2017.
Currently, more than 44 per cent of Westpac’s leadership roles are currently held by
women. In 2015, Westpac launched The Equilibrium Program which recruits
experienced women from other industries to widen the bank’s “pipeline” of female
leaders for senior management roles. The Program is designed to encourage
accomplished women leaders, both internal and external to the Westpac Group, who
have the ability, engagement and aspiration to succeed in a more senior, more
complex role or critical leadership position outside of their current specialisation.
Workplace Flexibility – Westpac’s uptake of flexible working conditions has
increased, with 66 per cent of employees participating in flexible work arrangements,
up from 44 per cent in 2010. Demand for flexibility has also grown significantly with
89 per cent of employees stating they will require workplace flexibility over the next
three years. Westpac Group was the first private sector company to pay
superannuation on unpaid parental leave in 2010 and has a paid paternity leave
entitlement of 13 weeks.