Creating a flexible and fair workplace that will influence change in our industry
In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, and this year’s theme, #BreaktheBias, we are featuring stories from our ED&I leaders across the globe from March 1 – 8. Learn more about how AECOM is breaking the bias for our employees and communities, by following our conversations on LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as the AECOM Blog.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, I reflect on my five years at AECOM and am very proud of the achievements we’ve seen in improving gender equity during this time. Having experienced firsthand the juggle of work, study, family and health, and the positive impact a supportive work environment that challenges gender bias can have, I didn’t hesitate when the opportunity arose recently to step into the Inclusion and Diversity Manager role for our Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) region.
We’ve worked hard at AECOM to improve gender balance at all levels of our organisation, and have seen steady improvement, with women in leadership increasing by 8 percent over the past six years in the ANZ region. This has been achieved through:
- Challenging and breaking down bias through our annual gender pay gap analysis with targeting funding towards closing any unexplainable gaps.
- Paying superannuation on top of government parental leave to assist with closing the gender gap seen in retirement savings, a phase of life where women are financially more vulnerable.
- Disrupting gender stereotypes and norms to create a fair and flexible work culture for people of all genders. This includes championing shared family caring responsibilities, and we have seen a 43 percent increase in male parental leave uptake since 2018.
- Targeted mentoring and sponsorship programs for women to support career development, help them form strategic alliances, and provide exposure to career building opportunities.
- Our mCircle program across ANZ, a platform for women to connect and to learn from each other’s experiences.
- Working together with our competitors to influence change at an industry level as a Member of Consult Australia’s Champions of Change Coalition.
While there has been encouraging progress, we must continue to work on building inclusive mindsets, break down bias, and actively providing opportunities to support women’s careers.
For me, the importance of International Women’s Day is more than celebrating the achievements of women, or campaigning for gender parity. It’s also about acknowledging that the path to gender equality has been long and bumpy, forged by many strong women before me, while looking to the future to drive continual progress. The first International Women’s Day gathering was held in 1911, and since then, it has taken successive generations of advocates to achieve the momentum we see around the world today.
Looking to the future, an ever-changing global landscape presents new and continued challenges for women. We have come a long way, but women still earn less than men. The World Economic Forum’s global gender gap report for 2020 highlighted that it will take 99.5 years to achieve gender parity at the current rate of progress. Part of the reason is because women tend to take on a greater load of duties at home, such as cooking, cleaning, or caring for children or elderly family leading them to do on average 2.7 more hours of unpaid work per day than men (IMF, 2021). This has been exacerbated by the global pandemic where work and personal life boundaries have been blurred more than ever. This is so important it has been addressed as part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as an economic and societal issue. Reducing gender imbalances in unpaid work has shown to benefit not only women, but also lead to stronger workforces and economies.
Coming out of the pandemic, ongoing hybrid work presents many opportunities for women to balance careers and home. To be successful, it requires continued focus on shared family caring responsibilities, equitable flexibility, and access to opportunities whether they are home or office based. Breaking down bias not only makes AECOM stronger and more inclusive, it better enables us to serve our clients and communities, improve social outcomes, and make the world a better place for future generations.
For these reasons, International Women’s Day is for everyone. Everyone plays a part in raising awareness of how bias can hold women back, to understand and address the biases that we all hold, and take action when we see bias in action. I want my daughter to live in a world free of stereotypes and discrimination, where her gender does not hold her back or limit the opportunities available to her. Everyone benefits from a world without gender bias.