Banking on gender equality: HR at Westpac

by Human Capital23 Jul 2012

HC: More specifically, what is Westpac doing to increase the number of women in leadership roles?

SK: Westpac is tracking extremely well to increase the number of women in leadership roles. As at the end of April 2012, our women in leadership population has increased to 38.5%, so we are well on track to meet our target of 40% by 2014.

 How have we achieved this? We’ve hard-wired change within the organisation through policy and processes, including implementing Women in Leadership targets within business units. Progress on these targets is regularly tracked through the Westpac Group Diversity Council which is chaired by our CEO, Gail Kelly, and meets quarterly.

We also understand that to support women in senior leadership roles we need to provide more flexibility in the workplace. We continue to support flexible work practices and stay abreast of industry-leading practice through strategic research and community partnerships. Over 48% of Westpac’s workforce operate on flexible working conditions and are accountable for their own work-life balance. This type of accountability is a huge contributor to overall productivity and employee engagement.

There is also the soft-wiring that is taking place across our organisation which involves driving cultural change through a range of initiatives, including being one of the first Australian companies to sign the CEO statement of support for the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles. We have established an Employee Action Group to support the progression of women within Westpac.

We are also the first private sector company to begin paying superannuation on unpaid parental leave for up to 39 weeks (from June 2010) in addition to 13 weeks of paid leave.

HC: Is enough being done to support women in business?

SK: Westpac has been doing a great job, and there is nothing like a target to motivate energy, drive and commitment, and we also keep raising the bar to continue the momentum. Gail Kelly announced an aspirational target of equal representation of men and women in senior leadership roles last year so that’s another goal we will continue to work towards.

I think there is heightened awareness among executives that to attract the best talent you need to offer work environments that are conducive to diversity and flexibility for both men and women. Many organisations are doing extensive work in this area and are really lifting the standards which will deliver benefits in the long term for attracting the best talent and achieving a productive and highly engaged workforce.

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