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Creating a culture of equal opportunity #EachforEqual

Saturday, 7 March 2020

By Bernadette Inglis, CEO

Each year on International Women’s Day, people around the world pause to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and the progress that has been made towards attaining global gender equality. It is a day where it is not only appropriate to celebrate the actions that have already been taken to achieve gender equality, but also drive forward those actions which will support the fast-tracking of gender equality.

This year, the theme of IWD, Each for Equal, strongly resonates with me. As a female CEO working in finance, an industry traditionally lead by men, I know that as an industry we still have some way to go.

It can be easy to believe that parity can be achieved through implementing targets to facilitate the advancement of women within the workplace. Indeed, by working in this way we could convince ourselves that we have achieved workplace gender parity and that we’d completed what we set out to achieve. This wouldn’t be the case.

Gender equality is about proactively supporting both women and men It is about is actively and consciously providing opportunities on merit, regardless of gender, background, or status.

True gender equality is about providing professional opportunities to every individual who has the relevant skills and experience and then placing the best candidate in the role. By placing women into specific roles, simply because they’re a female and you’re attempting to fulfil a quota, can be counterproductive and could take an opportunity away from another candidate who is better suited for the job.

I have seen again and again that women can at times be reluctant to put themselves forward for opportunities. There are some who clearly prioritise their family ahead of career advancement, this is admirable but should not prevent anyone achieving their professional potential.

It is the responsibility of all leaders within organisations is to recognise and provide support to their female employees. Life will always throw up obstacles and reasons not to put yourself forward for an opportunity. My Italian heritage has ingrained in me value of family and importance of being home for dinner with my family. Throughout my career there were many times that this family value clashed with my work responsibilities and I consciously developed ways to integrate my life across family and career. It’s an experience shared by many people, especially women. Because people depend on you, it can feel even risker to push further, put yourself forward, and out of your career comfort-zone. As a leader, when I see potential, I have a responsibility to support that individual to enable them to realise that potential.

In addition to this, organisations must take proactive steps to move roadblocks in terms of confidence and barriers for individuals to put themselves forward for opportunities.

Dedicated programs, such as Newcastle Permanent’s Ascend program, support high potential female employees and offer mentoring opportunities, supporting women who have the ability and potential, but may lack the confidence to put themselves forward.

Flexibility within the workplace for all employees is no longer a benefit but a need. It enables a person to have choices around their life integration and the organisation is afforded the opportunity to unlock a greater number of quality candidates to fill roles.

It’s also important for organisations to facilitate an environment where parents are empowered to achieve at work and effectively manage their home life. Our parental leave program has proven successful for both us and our employees: it has enabled Newcastle Permanent to attract and retain top talent, and it has enabled our employees (both women and men) to access paid leave during this wonderful and life-changing time and then transition back to work.

On this International Women’s Day, I challenge you to review your thought processes about what equality means to you. I am a firm believer that Each for Equal isn’t about benefiting one gender over another. It’s about creating an environment and organisational culture where everyone is provided an equal opportunity, regardless of gender or background.

This article was first published in The Newcastle Herald. 

Bernadette Inglis
Bernadette Inglis, CEO Newcastle Permanent

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