How a focus on diversity can make you an employer of choice

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For a lot of people, choosing a role to apply for is about much more than how high the salary is. Now, any company that's serious about attracting the best talent in its respective industry has to take into account the career development paths it can offer, what it's doing for corporate social responsibility and whether it's appealing to a diverse range of talent. 

While it's an issue that's more prevalent in some industries than others, a focus on gender diversity can greatly change the way potential candidates view a company. As the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) found, despite even stricter criteria than ever, more organisations are proving they can meet these demands.

More than 100 organisations are getting it right

For the 2016 version of its Employer of Choice for Gender Equality report, the WGEA strengthened its criteria to ensure those businesses that are recognised for their efforts are making genuine advances in the quest for more inclusive workforces. This year, 106 businesses received the citation, a dramatic increase from 76 and 90 recorded in 2014 and 2015 respectively. 

Each industry faces its own unique gender equality concerns.

The citations are earned based on an organisation's ability to provide a workplace that is inclusive to all people and can adapt to a variety of needs. Some of the trends indicative of an inclusive organisation include offering flexible hours to all employees, dedicated programs for growing women into leadership positions and tailored parental leave. 

According to WGEA Director Libby Lyons, the unique gender issues faced by each industry means it is up to organisations to lead the charge in their respective sectors. 

"WGEA data shows there is progress towards gender equality in Australian workplaces, but it is too slow," she began. "It is only through more employers taking the initiative to promote gender equality in the workplace that we will see the pace of change pick up."

How leaders can make a difference

McKinsey & Company also found that while there's a growing focus on gender inequality in both the media and within organisations, the overall pace of change is still too slow. The company found that three-quarters of CEOs have gender equality listed as one of their top 10 business priorities, yet the intent isn't converted into action as often as it should be. 

The consultancy noted the following reasons for the discrepancy between intent and action:

  • Commitment from leadership isn't obvious - employees aren't seeing initiatives influence everyday actions.
  • The issues aren't addressed head on - pervasive negative behaviours are rarely challenged by employees or managers.
  • Managers can't do it on their own - frontline management should be rewarded and recognised for the progress they do make. 

While the general consensus is that positive change is happening, there's still more that businesses and leaders can do to speed this process up. 

By Sarah Banek