APS department slammed for gender disparity

by Chloe Taylor24 Nov 2015
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has launched an overhaul of its workplace culture, after an investigation into the discrepancy between the career progressions of its male and female employees found women were not being given enough opportunity.

As a part of the new and improved culture, HR staff will undertake mandatory unconscious bias training.

Almost 57% of the department’s staff are female – but less than a third of the department’s senior executive positions are held by women, and just 27% of its heads of mission are female.

According to Fairfax Media, the department has implemented a strategy to improve gender equality within its workforce in response to an internal review that criticised its workplace culture.

“Women are applying for senior leadership roles at proportionally lower rates than men, despite performance data showing that women are performing as well as or better than men at all levels across the department,” the report said.

“This suggests that the department’s culture constrains women's choices and it is not applying the merit principle fully or making the most of its talent.”

DFAT has now committed to meeting the following targets by 2020:
  • Having women fill 43% of its senior executive (SES) ‘band one’ positions (currently at 36%)
  • Having women fill 40% of SES ‘band two’ positions (currently at 25%)
Remuneration rates increase with band categories.

“The targets are based on workforce planning data and are designed to be ambitious but achievable,” the report said.

“They take into account a number of variable factors which will impact on our ability to meet them.”

Several actions have been identified and implemented as a part of the strategy to overhaul the department’s culture, including the renaming of DFAT meeting rooms after inspirational women in diplomacy and trade.

Compulsory unconscious bias training will also be completed by key HR staff and all managers.

Breastfeeding policies will also be revisited, as will work-related travel.

“[We will] consider new ways to promote female and male role models and champions and inspire staff, for example, by profiling senior staff, holding seminars and using appropriate opportunities to highlight the achievements of women in the department,” the report said.

DFAT will also trial a flexible working regime for all positions.

“For DFAT to perform at its best, we must maximise the talents and skills of all our staff,” said DFAT secretary Peter Varghese.

“This strategy is about strengthening our capability by enabling all staff to reach their full potential.

“This process goes to the heart of our work on leadership and values. It is about ensuring all staff have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

“If we can achieve this, DFAT will also perform at its best.”

Managers will also be encouraged to identify women in their teams who are ‘high-potential’, and support their career progression.

They will also be expected to develop strategies for employees on flexible or part-time contracts.

Managers have also been told to run meetings that accommodate different styles and ensure diverse voices are heard.

"For example, rotate chair responsibilities where appropriate, seek out women's voices, introduce a no-interruptions rule," the report said.

Meetings that accommodate different communication styles will be held, ensuring that a diversity of voices are heard.

“For example, rotate chair responsibilities where appropriate, seek out women's voices, introduce a no-interruptions rule,” said the report.


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