Big banks welcome the corporate hijab

by Miklos Bolza21 Sep 2016
Westpac has recently announced it will introduce the corporate hijab, making it the second major Australian bank to upgrade its uniform in this way after Commonwealth Bank made the move earlier this year.
 
Westpac has a long proud history of ensuring diversity and inclusion for our people, and introducing the corporate hijabs is another way we can show our support for our people and ensure they feel great at work,” a Westpac spokesperson told HC.
 
The branded hijabs have been designed by Carla Zampatti and will be launched as part of the new corporate wardrobe in April 2017 for the bank’s 200th anniversary.
 
Although the Westpac hijab has yet to be introduced, “feedback from staff has been very positive, and those who have seen the design say it blends beautifully with the broader uniform,” the spokesperson said.
 
As Commonwealth Bank employees had been wearing the corporate hijab for some time, HC sat down with Deb Howcroft, executive general manager of organisational development, to talk about how this new uniform item had been developed.
 
The idea for the hijab was brought forward through the bank’s Mosaic network, she said, which is a volunteer employee network that focuses on cultural diversity. The network looks at ways to make people feel more inclusive across different cultural backgrounds.
 
“One of the things that they identified was that for some women who were wearing the hijabs, they didn’t feel as included as we would want them to feel in the organisation,” Howcroft said.
 
One employee in the network conducted focus groups with female employees from an Islamic background in order to pinpoint what a great hijab looked like.
 
“She spent time understanding different fabrics, looking at different colours, and understanding how to wear the hijab. She didn’t come from an Islamic background so it really her reaching out to say ‘How can I support you, my colleagues, in feeling more included in the organisation?’”
 
After working with the corporate uniform people and advising them of the preferred design and fabric, the branded hijab was corporate hijab was launched at an Iftar dinner on 15 June this year which was hosted by Commonwealth Bank’s Retail Bank.
 
The main aim was to listen to employees from different cultural backgrounds and understand what’s important to them to help them feel included.
 
“It’s one thing to have an intent around being inclusive but if you’re not listening to people and understanding what inclusion and exclusion means for them, then it’s very hard to achieve that inclusive intent,” Howcroft told HC.
 
Feedback has been really positive by staff too, she said, with a number of them participating in videos talking about how they feel with the corporate hijab as part of the uniform.
 
“We’ve had good feedback from a whole range of our employees around this being a really inclusive approach to take. This is both from people who choose to wear the hijab and from others who don’t but recognise that by having the hijab it is a very visible example of an inclusive environment.”
 
Having the employee volunteer network was a crucial part of driving this type of cultural change, she added.
 
“It’s not just about having senior leadership commitment; it’s also about enabling people to get involved in creating an organisation and culture that they’re passionate about and they’re proud of. That makes a phenomenal difference for us.”
 
Related stories:
 
Is Islamophobia lurking in your recruitment process?
 
Abercrombie’s 7-year headscarf saga finally ends
 
Auspost CEO calls on employers to hire more young Muslims

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