3 organisations who are getting diversity right

Diversity is a hot topic among Australian workplaces as more organisations seek to unlock the benefits it brings to business. We go behind the scenes at Westpac, Queensland Department of Transport and Roads and MYOB to uncover how they are bringing diversity to life in the workplace.


Studies show diversity can increase productivity and profitability through a broader range of perspectives and a deeper understanding of the customer experience.

A commitment to diversity goes beyond buzzwords and requires a strategic approach from the top down. Here are three organisations that are putting words into action – especially in the area of gender diversity – by building talent pipelines, addressing equity in recruitment and building policies to allow diverse talent to thrive at work.

Strategies you can bank on
- Westpac

Westpac has a strong track record of gender diversity. In 1961, it became the first bank in Australia to hire a female bank teller and went on to become the first major bank in the country with a female CEO and board member. It was also the first bank in Australia to publically commit to a target of 50% women in leadership roles by 2017. “We’re pretty close,” says Samantha Turner, Westpac Group’s. “We’re currently at 49%, but we’ll get there before the end of the year.”

Achieving diversity at the bank requires a broad approach. Westpac mandates 50% of women on recruitment short lists and all roles are considered flexible, which may also help attract more women to the business. SEEK’s Laws of Attraction research shows women place a greater emphasis than men on work-life balance opportunities, such as flexible hours, when it comes to choosing their next role.

Westpac has also taken steps to increase the gender diversity of its talent pipeline through partnerships with universities and work experience programs at regional schools. “We also have our Equilibrium program, where we bring in ten women from non-financial services backgrounds with strong leadership skills and give them a 12-month rotation so they get to experience various parts of the bank and carve their leadership role,” explains Turner.

Later this year, Westpac will commission research to measure the impact of diversity on productivity. “The greater the productivity, the better the result for the bottom line and this will be a key measure for us moving forward,” says Turner.

Westpac’s commitment to diversity extends beyond gender. Last year it partnered with the Australian Human Rights Commission to launch the Cultural Diversity Blueprint, which was designed to help Australian businesses understand best practice for inclusive leadership. “We need to reflect the communities that we serve,” says Turner.

Over the next 12 months, Westpac will seek to consolidate its work on diversity. “It’s like we’ve renovated the house and now we need to make sure that we’ve got it right.”.

Driving diversity forward
- Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads

In 2013, women represented only 15% of the leadership team at the Queensland Government’s Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR). Its then-new Director-General, Neil Scales, was keen to address the imbalance and set a target of 33% by 2018. A key milestone to achieving this target is that women currently represent 43% of TMR’s executive leadership team and work continues to ensure all applicants have an equitable opportunity to apply and progress to senior roles.

Gender diversity at TMR does not happen by chance. In 2014, Deputy Director-General, Mike Stapleton was appointed as Champion. TMR developed a Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan and the TMR Diversity Council was established to monitor its initiatives. “We believe that what gets measured gets managed,” says Stapleton, “Diversity has always been important to the executive team, but when it’s on the agenda and gets measured, there’s a greater focus on actively managing outcomes.”

TMR has developed a range of initiatives to increase the number of women in its senior leadership team. This includes mentoring, networking opportunities and job shadowing. “Our Director-General has a female engineer shadowing him at the moment,” says Rebecca Capper, Acting Manager Workforce Strategy at TMR. “The commitment goes right to the top”.

TMR is also the first government agency or department involved in the Diversity in Infrastructure Group. Capper explains that this allows TMR to gain information on initiatives as well as influence and share stories across the infrastructure industry.

Capper says TMR’s diversity strategy extends beyond gender and is built on the goal of an inclusive workplace culture where everyone can thrive. She says an increased representation of diverse groups is a measurement of success. “We’re interested in having a diverse representation right across the department,” she says. “We can also see success through our entry pathways programs. If you start to see a greater balance in applications, you know that your public messaging is getting across.”

As TMR continues to work on diversity and inclusion across the department, Capper says a next step is to consider the fact that not everyone is coming from an equal platform to start with. “It’s great to measure diversity and to have targets and we’re also considering the barriers in a recruitment process to better support candidates at each stage.” Capper says.

Capper says TMR will continue to build its culture so that diversity becomes business as usual. “If you get the culture right, you get to a point where you don’t need to measure different groups, or have targeted programs, because everyone is able to bring their whole selves to work.”

Cracking the code for women
- MYOB

The ICT industry has long been dominated by men. The Australia’s Digital Pulse 2017 report by Deloitte Access Economics shows women account for just 28% of ICT workers. Women also make up less than a third of university graduates in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. 

Technology company MYOB employs approximately 1,550 people, around 36% of whom are female. Faced with a shortage of female IT graduates - and relatively low numbers of women across the company - it wanted to find an alternative approach to recruitment. Last year, it launched an experimental program, called DevelopHer, to see if it was possible to teach people with no previous IT experience basic coding in 16 weeks. 

Nicole Simona, MYOB’s Organisational Capability Manager, explains the DevelopHer program represents a ‘returnship’ program. “Instead of taking on interns straight out school or uni, we looked for women who may have been out of the workforce for a while or wanted a mid-career change, to be trained in coding.”

Around 100 applications were received for the DevelopHer program and three recruits were selected. The MYOB in-house coding course was devised from scratch and was run three days a week to take into account caring or other work responsibilities the recruits may have had.

“The recruits were not guaranteed a position at the end of the course, but all participants achieved a level of competence and were offered jobs,” says Simona. “We now have a list of 300 women, including internal applicants, who have expressed interest in the program and are hoping the next intake this year can take more than three people.”

Simona explains MYOB’s commitment to diversity and inclusion extends to removing any barriers to inclusion that it can identify and women now represent 33% of MYOB’s senior executive team. “We’re paying particular attention to the attraction of, opportunities for and experiences we create for women in technology,” she says. “We believe that the wide array of perspectives that result from diversity promotes innovation and business success.”

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Susan Muldowney

Susan Muldowney has worked in publishing for more than two decades and found her perfect job when she began freelancing two years ago. She is based in Melbourne and specialises in writing about business, architecture and design.

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