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Keys to creating gender equality in the workplace

By Jane Livesey, Managing Director, Accenture Technology, Australia & New Zealand

Recognizing the talent and contribution of all employees in the workplace, including women, is crucial. Organizations that successfully reward and appreciate the contribution and value that women in particular bring do so by embedding it into their culture. They take proactive measures to provide equal opportunities for growth, learning and promotion in the company. These elements should not be luxuries as they are imperative to our personal well-being and happiness at work.

"For gender equality, the most important thing we can do is to make a concerted effort to ensure we’re understanding of the stages of people’s careers."

For gender equality, the most important thing we can do is to make a concerted effort to ensure we’re understanding of the stages of people’s careers and afford them the flexibility and opportunities that are aligned to that stage. Where women need flexibility, e.g., working from home, we can give them that flexibility. Where they need training and development, we can provide it through training budgets and mentorship. But most importantly, we can provide a work environment that is built on merit. That way, regardless of gender, we’re giving people the recognition they deserve.

Flexible work arrangements
I’ve personally benefited from having a flexible working environment through things like maternity leave and flex arrangements. As we encourage these kinds of schemes in the workplace and make them the norm, there will be less need to see them as hindrances or enablers, but rather just opportunities for work-life balance to which everyone in the workplace is entitled.

The types of flexible work arrangements I have used have been different at different times in my career as my needs have changed. When I had my first child I returned to work part time, and during a six month period increased my days gradually until I returned to full time work.

I was promoted two months before my second daughter was born. In that case, managing a large team on a part-time basis was not practical. Instead, I returned to work with an arrangement where I worked from home part of the week. In addition, I took extra leave, which allowed me to balance the holiday needs of my eldest daughter but also gave me an opportunity to take a break when the sleepless nights had taken their toll.

More resources and support than ever
Thinking about women in the workforce today, I don’t think there are any new, revolutionary challenges that women are facing. Equal pay, balancing work and life, and equal opportunities, these are all still present. However, the difference is that today, there are more resources, sponsors and supporters of women in the workplace than ever before and these challenges are no longer insurmountable. At Accenture in Australia alone, approximately 50 percent of the leadership team is comprised of females. We may not be all the way there yet, but we’re making a mark.

The biggest challenge women have to overcome is getting out of their own way. We need to learn to ask for the same opportunities, remuneration and recognition that men receive. We are more concerned than our male counterparts about asking for what we deserve, and this reluctance creates barriers to our own growth.