What makes Commonwealth Bank a leader in gender equality?

by Chloe Taylor18 Dec 2015
Last month, Commonwealth Bank Australia (CBA) was the Workplace Gender Equality Agency Employer of Choice for Gender Equality prize for the second consecutive year.

HC sat down with Edyta Torpy, general manager of group diversity and inclusion at CBA to discuss the organisation’s prize-winning diversity initiatives.

Why diversity?

“Australia has a huge amount of people in Australia from culturally diverse backgrounds, and if employers don’t tap into the widest possible talent pool they are missing out,” Torpy told HC.

At CBA, over 50% of graduate employees are women.

“As a nation, around $7 billion is invested in female education at a tertiary level,” Torpy continued.

“To me it seems that we’re not getting a good enough ROI if the talent that is produced from that is not tapped into – hiring diversely just makes sense.”

Diversity issues

For CBA, like many organisations, the number one aim is make sure that the pipeline of talent is strong.

“We want to make sure we are investing in under-represented groups,” Torpy said.

“There are certain areas in certain industries that are traditionally not a female-focused area; therefore there is potentially less talent available in that area – so it’s important to have a great place to work where people feel included.”

She added that people have a lot of choices now, whether they are men or women.

“Jobseekers can choose to start their own business, or which industry they want to work in; that’s why it’s important that irrespective of you industry you provide that environment where people want to work for you,” she explained.

“We are trying to make ourselves attractive to employees in the longer term.”

CBA’s chief executive is a member of Male Champions of Change – an organisation focused on achieving tangible diversity through cross-industry collaboration.

“They are working together to learn, collaborate and spread the word,” Torpy said.

“Diversity is not just about us or our competitors; it’s about all industries showing that Australia is together on this.”


CBA has a “series of initiatives” in place across the organisation, Torpy told HC.

“It all starts with targets,” she said.

“As with any business imperative, we see setting targets as setting our attention – it puts everyone on the same page.”

Torpy added that the organisation also has strong support and sponsorship from the whole executive team, which is important to get the investment HR needs.

“We have the springboard program, which is designed for high potential female managers,” she continued.

“The program helps us to build the pipeline into senior management roles.

“There’s also a strong system of mentoring and sponsorship, and a career resilience program.

“We have a fantastic series of networks that make our people feel included and that they have the right environment to talk about and develop their careers.”

The bank’s diversity program generally runs under three broad headings: policies and processes, behaviour and how employees treat one another, and providing the right role models.

“When it comes to the latter, we want to have women in top roles to symbolise that we are paving the way for our female employees,” Torpy said.

“We also want people in those roles that people will want to emulate and follow.”

Employee response

According to Torpy, the feedback from CBA’s employees has been positive.

“We run an annual engagement survey where we go out to ask our staff about how they feel about working here – we never assume that they are engaged,” she said.

“We’ve seen an increase year on year in overall engagement.

“Last year’s survey showed us that 86% of our employees were satisfied, or more than satisfied, against the diversity and inclusion question.

“This is a great result, but it also means that our people are not 100% satisfied, so we can’t drop our guard or take our eye off of the ball; there is always room for improvement, and we certainly can’t be complacent.”

Another thing that employees have responded to positively is CBA’s high representation of women at executive and board level.

“We abide by the rule that ‘we can’t be what we can’t see’,” Torpy said.

“It’s very important to have role models in these areas for women to aspire to, so that they can see they can have a long-term career at CBA.”

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