Measuring retention of women and reviewing salaries to identify gaps between genders are among the initiatives the equal opportunity agency has recognised as advancing equality in the workplace, in its annual business achievement awards.
The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) awards, announced yesterday, acknowledge organisations and individuals for "understanding and embracing the valuable contribution that women can make to their business", says its director Anna McPhee.
While some of the initiatives are complex, others are as simple as communicating with workers on parental leave and inviting them to briefings and events to maintain their connection to the company and facilitate their return.
HR Daily will provide more detail on each winner in coming articles, but some of the key achievements include:
John Ballard, CEO of Mercy Health & Aged Care, who won the award for "leading CEO for the advancement of women", has increased female representation on the board of directors from two (out of 10) to five.
He requires HR managers to plan and measure EO progress against agreed objectives and provides a biannual report to the board on their status.
Mercy's return-to-work rate from parental leave is 98 per cent. Its Nursebank program provides an internal bank of casually employed nurses and midwives to fill ad-hoc nursing vacancies as they arise, allowing employees on parental leave to work in a casual capacity without breaking their continuity of service.
Eva Freedman of HSBC Bank Australia Ltd, recognised as "diversity leader for the advancement of women", established a business case for diversity by integrating equality and diversity into the business strategy. She influenced the executive team and business managers to participate in a behaviourally based culture change initiative focused on challenging their thinking and re-framing their approach to diversity.
She was instrumental in establishing the HSBC childcare centre, which has 85 places, at the Sydney head office and sought approval to apply for a private tax ruling allowing HSBC employees to salary sacrifice centre fees.
The Cancer Council Queensland, which won the award for "leading organisation for the advancement of women" (<500 employees) has increased its return-to-work rate from leave from 46 per cent in 2004 to 94 per cent in 2008. Female staffers who are on maternity leave receive regular updates on the Cancer Council and are invited to attend briefings and functions.
The organisation specifically schedules departmental meetings to accommodate staff working part-time and provides part time working opportunities, working from home option/arrangements, flexible working arrangements, and job-sharing.
It annually conducts a full review of salary levels across the job ranges in the organisation to identify significant differences in male/female remuneration. The overall gender pay gap in the organisation is 4.3 per cent, which is well below the ABS average of 17 per cent and the industry-average gap for health and community services (31%).
The winner of the "leading organisation for the advancement of women" (>500 employees), Deloitte, has implemented an "Inspiring Women" program that focuses on increasing the number of women in leadership positions through internal promotions and by positioning the firm as an employer of choice for women. Women comprised 50 per cent of the graduate intake in 2008 and 48 per cent of total lateral hires. Of total promotions in 2008, 49 per cent were women, and 24 per cent of new partners were women.
The goals of the program have been built into management's performance metrics. Business segments are measured quarterly on the number of women leaders they have as well as on the retention of women on their teams.
The "Women in IT Executive Mentoring" (WITEM) program, founded by Dell Australia, won the "outstanding initiative/result for the advancement of women" award. It aims to accelerate development of leadership skills of women within the predominantly male IT industry.
The focus of the project is on defining career paths, encouraging flexibility and influencing middle management to demonstrate and support diversity.
Mentees are regularly surveyed to measure progress on the program's objectives and continue to report: increased self confidence and self esteem; improved access and visibility to senior executives; accelerated career development; greater leadership perspective, skills and insight; improvements in existing skills and job performance; and clearer career paths.
ConocoPhillips Australia Pty Ltd, which won "outstanding workplace flexibility achieved through job re-design", has helped increase the proportion of female hires into engineering and non-traditional roles.
A specific example involved reviewing and re-designing a payroll officer role to allow the employee to spend time with her daughter. The position was re-designed into new roles, with the officer working three days (60% FTE).
Mt Arthur Coal Pty Ltd runs a trainee operator program designed to encourage a broad range of local candidates from the Hunter Valley to participate in the program and achieve a nationally recognised qualification and industry relevant skills, increasing the skilled labour pool for Mt Arthur, the mining industry and local employers.
It won "outstanding EEO practice for the advancement of women in a non-traditional area/role".
The program's selection criteria are based on behavioural attributes rather than experience in heavy industry or with machinery. Some 29 per cent of trainees currently employed are women.
"The Minister's award for outstanding EEO practice in the advancement of Indigenous women" went to SDN Children's Services Inc. Its "Stepping Stones" program offers local Aboriginal women the opportunity to gain experience in child, family and educational settings and encourages them to set up their own playgroup.
The program uses traditional teaching methods incorporating group work, culturally significant body language, Aboriginal English, traditional songs and dance, and Aboriginal resources such as dreamtime, story books and puzzles.
The interview and selection process for participants has been modified to ensure it is more relevant to female Indigenous applicants, and interview dates and times are flexible, with most being held at night when it is easier for applicants to organise care for their children. The interview panel comprises at least one Aboriginal mentor, elder or Aboriginal staff member, ensuring that the appropriate cultural customs and practices are upheld.