‘Workplace redesign’ only path to gender equality

by 23 Feb 2012

Two peak think-tanks have called for a complete ‘workplace redesign’, saying workplace gender inequality will persist until organisations rethink their approach to leadership.

Despite some key advances for women in the workforce and the growing body of evidence demonstrating a strong business case for gender diversity, women remain underrepresented in management and leadership roles, and it has been shown that this affects the business bottom line. In a new joint whitepaper released this week by the Australian Institute of Management and UN Women Australia, it was argued that organisations have been slow to embrace the value-generating challenge of retaining and supporting talented women through the leadership pipeline. Yet, companies with gender-balanced leadership report increased collegiality better insights into the consumer market.

According to the report, blocks in the leadership pipeline include:

  • Lack of meaningful flexible-work options for working mothers
  • Affordability of childcare
  • Limited career flexibility options
  • Recruitment bias
  • Exclusion from informal networks
  • Unconscious bias (stereotyping and preconceptions about women’s abilities)
  • Insufficient leadership from the top— a failure to actively support women’s advancement

A ‘workplace redesign’ would involve re-thinking and then re-designing jobs to better suit the flexibility needed among the modern workforce. In particular, such guidelines that may be considered by HR include:

  • Placing limitations on the hours that meetings can be organised, for example, between 10 am– 3pm to allow for school/childcare drop offs and pick ups
  • Exploring all options for staff to work at home where possible
    Related article: Flexibility opens up untapped talent pool
  • Looking at offering parental leave flexibility, rather than full time leave, over an extended period (for example two years)
    Related article: Communication disconnect: Employers and Mums returning to work
  • Using technology, including video technology, to enable workers to fully participate in meetings while out of the office
  • Using ‘dial an angel’ services, which could be shared between many companies or work groups, to look after children or other dependents if an employee needs to attend an urgent meeting and is unable to get other care arrangements in place.


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