International Women's Day – paving the way for change

Organisations across the board are striving to beat the workplace gender gap as they realise balance really is better.

Symes Group CEO Jessica Symes gets the audience thinking at ISACA's International Women's Day event.

By Ingrid Green

International Women’s Day is always an important date on the Syme’s Group calendar and this year was no exception.

CEO Jessica Symes and the team joined around 200 like-minded individuals at ISACA’s #BalanceForBetter event.

ISACA is a global, non-profit, independent association that advocates for professionals involved in information security, assurance, risk management and governance. But for the Sydney Chapter’s She Leads Tech arm, last Friday was all about women.

The group’s main thrust is to increase the proportion of women working in technology, and they’re not short of support.

Lion CEO Stuart Irvine kicked off the event with #RoadTo5050, insights into the company’s journey towards 50/50 gender representation.

Lion has long embraced a culture of inclusivity and sociability, with six-monthly engagement scores always in the 80s. To address the gender gap though, they must go above and beyond, Stuart says.

Management considered the company to be a meritocracy, but analysis of pay equity in 2015/16 revealed a different story. The 3.2% gender pay imbalance came as a huge shock he says, but the response was swift.

The immediate salary adjustment cost $6m, and prompted further investigation into the meritocracy model. The paradox, he says, is that it is subject to bias; monitoring is required to identify and eliminate it.

As women often join the company with lower salary expectations and tend not to push as aggressively for more money, the salary is now included in all Lion job ads.

The company aims to be 50/50 gender balanced by 2026, across all teams. As well as pay equality, they are promoting mentoring and sponsorship, childcare, leadership capability builds, flexibility and wellbeing, as well as strict gender targets, using 50/50 hiring lists and considering gender neutral CVs.

After all says Stuart, the customers are at the heart of the company, so it must be as culturally diverse as they are.

The #LetsTalk discussion provided insights from a passionate panel including Vivienne Mutembwa of Privasec, Richard Bergman of PWC, Roseanna Leddy of Male Champions of Change, new cyber graduate and Telstra employee Jacinda Erkelens and moderated by James Turner of CisoLens. The group shared ideas, tools and lessons learned about gender equality in the workplace from their own experience.

Janin Bredehoeft, research and analytics executive manager at Workplace Gender Equality Agency, backed up her talk #DataDrivesChange, with a sobering set of figures.

Her organisation has compiled five years of workplace gender quality agency data, covering 40 per cent of Australian employees. The numbers show an average 14 per cent pay gap.

Male dominated industries, she says, are doing better at addressing gender imbalance, and their measures often benefit their staff as a whole.

She gave an example of mining companies introducing trolleys to decrease the physical strength required for some tasks, and explained how it had made it more viable for women to hold those jobs, but lessened the physical risk for men too.

She says there are many steps to help bridge the gender gap: paid parental leave (the number of weeks offered correlates with staff retention), having women in senior management (including board reporting), eliminating pay gaps and flexible working arrangements.

Chartered accountant Matthew Carpenter took the audience on a journey of the history of women in technology and Kathryn Howard of itSMF spoke about the changing culture surrounding women in the workplace through the years.

Symes Group’s CEO Jessica Symes provided #BringYourBestGame, an invigorating express masterclass in building confidence and developing a personal brand. She had the audience reflecting, connecting and sharing, giving everyone time to explore their motivation and inspiration, skills, abilities and goals – plus an opportunity for a bit of networking.

She delved into the creation of a purpose statement, explaining the importance of authenticity and being the kind of person you want to be.

#CultureShock, an entertaining keynote from head of communications at McCrindle Research Ashley Fell, explored learning how to embrace and work in harmony with today’s multi-generational workplace.

An inspiring and encouraging day, it was summed up nicely by Janin’s statement: we have a lot to celebrate in the field of gender equality, but a long way to go.

Ph: 1300 657 934  

M: +61 403 363 257

PO Box 5192 Greenwich NSW 2065

Symes Group Pty Ltd trading as Jessica Symes Toomey.

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