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Flexibility and gender equality - industry game changers

31 July 2015

The HR recruitment specialist peoplecorp recently interviewed Westpac Director Women’s Markets, Inclusion and Diversity, Ainslie Van Onselen, about Westpac’s aspirations when it comes to gender equality and flexibility.

In a wider business context, the application of flexibility policies to the workplace requires communication and a willingness to change. Flexibility also offers employees new ways of engaging with work and supports better levels of inclusion and diversity.

How many of us have seen and heard about the abandoning of the early morning meeting or long client after work drinks in favour of something to which all members of the team, including fathers and mothers on drop off and pick-up duty for children, can come?

Gender equality makes sense from productivity and business viewpoints as well as ethically and socially, and it requires flexibility if it is to happen.

From June this year (2015), internally and externally advertised roles as well as current roles in Westpac are considered flexible. This comes in direct response to 89 percent of employees saying they will need some form of flexibility in the next three years (Westpac 2014 Diversity and Flexibility Survey).

The top tip for implementing such a major workplace flexibility strategy is, according to Ainslie, to have “senior leader role modelling and executive support. Mainstreaming flexibility is a combination of a cultural mindset change away from distrust and performance being measured by presentee-ism (but rather by output and productivity), as well as enabling and empowering your workforce with the right tools, technology, and physical environment that complement this.”

While the policies and changes may seem internally focussed, these sorts of changes within large organisations set new benchmarks for industry and have the potential - indeed eventually do - change industries and society.

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