Catalyst to increase women’s representation and leadership in Australian workplaces

Portrait of happy business woman sitting in officeCatalyst, one of the world’s leading drivers of gender equality in the workplace has landed in Australia, opening an office in Melbourne.

Catalyst Australia Women Research and Consulting Limited will engage with employers to create more inclusive workplaces and provide member companies with the tools needed to enact real change.

Catalyst’s presence in Australia will build on the momentum brought about by the country’s ground breaking programs and Catalyst’s successful collaboration with the Australian government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

Australia has two Catalyst Award-winning initiatives: Telstra’s Next Generation Gender Diversity: Accelerating Change for Women Leaders (2010) and the Commonwealth Bank’s Opening the Door for Gender Diversity (2012).

Catalyst believes the Australian Securities Exchange’s Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations to increase women’s representation on Australian corporate boards, and programs such as the Australian Government Board Links and the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Male Champions of Change, further demonstrate clear commitment by the government and Australian companies to advancing more women to leadership.

“Australia is uniquely poised to remove the barriers that exist for women in workplaces and communities,” said Deborah Gillis, President and CEO of Catalyst.

“Catalyst’s entry into Australia enables us to bring a wealth of Catalyst resources to the Asia-Pacific market to meet the region’s global challenges and opportunities. We are honored to have a presence in Australia, where we can help transform corporate culture and advance women to leadership.”

Catalyst’s expansion into Australia will give Australian member companies greater access to Catalyst’s resources, and the opportunity to be connected with the Catalyst membership globally, which includes over 700 leading multi-national organisations and professional firms around the world. For more information visit the website:

Australia's older citizens want a future free from discrimination

age-discrimTomorrow (1 October) is International Day of Older Persons and this year the theme is The future we want: what older persons are saying.

According to Australia’s Council on the Ageing (COTA), Australia’s five and a half million older citizens say they want a future free from discrimination; to be able to participate fully in Australian society; and to have access to quality and affordable services when they need them.

COTA Australia Chief Executive Ian Yates says compared to many other countries, most older Australians can enjoy a reasonable standard of living. But we still have a long way to go to treat all older people with the respect they deserve.

In Australia the Age Discrimination Act provides protection against discrimination on the basis of age in relation to employment, education, accommodation and access to services. However, COTA Australia believes our age discrimination laws are weaker than any of the other anti-discrimination Acts.

“Over a third of older Australians say they have directly experienced age-related discrimination,” said Mr Yates. “Nearly a third of the long term unemployed on the inadequate Newstart Allowance are over 55 and many face poverty for life as they languish, often unable to find employment for ten years or more, before they qualify for the properly indexed aged pension.”

According to an Australian Human Rights Commission report, The Road So Far – the Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth) (2011), the majority of complaints received in relation to age discrimination are in the area of employment.

One of the major barriers for older people in the workforce are the negative stereotypes and misconceptions around ageing. In an attempt to address the issue, the Australian Human Rights Commission has launched the Age Positive project to promote diverse and positive portrayals of older Australians.

Another challenge for older Australians in 2013 is access to affordable housing. COTA says homelessness in people aged over 70 is on the rise and “The issue is particularly acute for those older people on pensions struggling to meet the cost of private rentals, and for older women who have been home carers and don’t have any superannuation to fall back on.”

Mr Yates says older people tell COTA they want to enjoy the same rights and entitlements as the rest of the population, not be consigned to second class citizenship.

“What older people really want is to be able to continue to have an active, healthy and productive life for as long as possible, with appropriate supports if required,” he said.

“They want to have the option to stay in the workforce for as long they choose, contribute to community, age in their homes and communities and access good quality and affordable health and aged care should they need it.”

“Solutions exist to all these issues, ” said Mr Yates. “But they require a co‐ordinated approach across Federal government portfolios and I urge the newly elected government to commit to developing an Ageing Strategy which takes a whole‐of government approach to an ageing population.”

Photo credit: Australian Human Rights Commission

Hundreds of Jobs Women are legally prohibited from doing

baker carrying loaves of bread dough to bakeA new report by the World Bank and IFC has found economies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have the most extensive lists of jobs women cannot legally do.

With 456 jobs women cannot do, the Russian Federation has to be the worst place on earth to be looking for work if you’re a female.

Women in Russia cannot be sailors; truck drivers in agriculture; woodworkers; or install antennas in high places.

Similarly, in Kazakhstan the so called fairer sex are prohibited from working in 299 separate occupations including snowmobile driver, lumberjack, railway fitter, and metal welder.

In Belarus where the number of restricted jobs is 252, women cannot work as divers, porters, firefighters or be on the front line of any emergency response.

While these restrictions may have arisen from a desire to protect women from the physical dangers involved, better safety standards and technology make many of these restrictions unnecessary in the 21st Century. Furthermore, any occupational health and safety protections for women, should also be extended to men. If a job is too dangerous for women, then men shouldn’t be doing it either.

But it’s not just women’s physical safety the labor codes are trying to protect. The report, Women, Business and the Law 2014: Removing Restrictions to Enhance Gender Equality also said:

“Some economies prohibit women from working in jobs legally deemed harmful to their moral character. Though this is an explicit restriction in labor codes, jobs that are ‘morally harmful’ to women are often not defined objectively but left to employers to determine. Working at night can fall into this category if employers feel working at night is morally harmful to women.”

Of all the economies covered by Women, Business and the Law, 79 restrict women from doing all the same jobs as men. Many of the jobs prohibited for women are in highly paid industries such as mining and manufacturing, confining women to lower-paid sectors of the workforce.

Out of the 143 economies surveyed for the report, at least 90 percent had one or more laws that hinder women’s ability to work or start a business. In some economies in the Middle East, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, husbands can legally prevent or stop their wives from working all together.

The report, Women, Business and the Law 2014: Removing Restrictions to Enhance Gender Equality, is published by Bloomsbury Publishing.

Only 16 Companies in the ASX200 show commitment to Gender Diversity

Business meetingWomen On Boards (WOB), the organisation founded in 2006 to increase the number of women on Australian boards, has named and shamed those companies in the ASX200 who show little or no interest in gender diversity.

According to the latest WOB Traffic Light Index launched in Sydney last week, 15.5% (31 companies) from the ASX200 have been given a red light, meaning they show little or no compliance with basic gender diversity principles. A further 29.5% (59 companies) rated only slightly higher appearing at the bottom of the amber category.

Only eight per cent of the ASX200 (16 companies) have been given the top rating of a Green light, renewing calls for gender quotas for companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX).

New to the Green rating in 2013 are Aurizon, Caltex and Suncorp Metway. They join the ASX, Commonwealth Bank, Commonwealth Property Office and CFS Retail Property Trust Group, MirvacGroup, National Australia Bank, Stockland, Telstra, Transurban Group, Westpac, Woolworths and, as the companies leading gender diversity performance and reporting in Australia.

The 2013 WOB Traffic Light Index is the first comprehensive review of how companies in the ASX200 are progressing in relation to the reporting and performance of gender balance within their organisation.

Speaking at the launch on Thursday 26 September, Women on Boards Chair and report author Ruth Medd, said there was a clear disparity in companies with female directors and those who have none. “Of the Red rated companies, 77 per cent have no female director while more than 80 per cent of the Green rated companies have at least two females on their boards.”

“We cannot keep ignoring the stark reality that in corporate Australia in 2013 women still receive lower pay, fewer Board seats and fewer senior executive roles,” she said.

On Friday The Australian reported that an increasing number of professional women and others are joining the call to legislate quotas for ASX companies.

John Atkin, non-executive director of Aurizon, a company which has been given a Green light rating by WOB, has said there is a need for quotas. So too has Arlene Tansey, a director on five boards, including Adelaide Brighton and Pacific Brands.

In a piece written two years ago for Australian Women Online, Claire Braund, Executive Director of Women on Boards, said the percentage of women in senior leadership in ASX companies has fallen because few businesses have any sort of measurable or hard targets for gender diversity.

But improving gender diversity doesn’t just magically happen when more women enter the workforce. As those who have improved gender diversity within their organisation will tell you, companies need to make a concerted effort to solve the problem and yes, this does mean setting targets.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of companies given a Red light rating by WOB are operating in the male-dominated sectors of Energy, Materials (including mining), Utilities, and Transportation.

Red Light Rating

Alacer Gold Group
Aquila Resources
Beadell Resources
Coalspur Mines
Discovery Metals
Energy World Corporation
Evolution Mining
Fleetwood Corp
Henderson Group PLC
Horizon Oil Limited
Iluka Resources

James Hardie Industries SE
Kingsgate Consolidated
Medusa Mining
Mineral Resources
Northern Star Resources
NRW Holdings
OceanaGold Corporation CDI
Perseus Mining
Qube Logistics Holdings
Resolute Mining
Shopping Centres Australia Property Group
Silver Lake Resources
Sirtex Medical
TPG Telecom
Troy Resources


Earlier this year, Women on Boards created the Guidelines for gender balance performance and reporting Australia to help organisations measure, report and improve performance in relation to gender balance.

A full copy of the Guidelines and a comprehensive summary of the Traffic Light Index are available at The full report from the Traffic Lights Index plus a best practices document is available for a fee from Women on Boards.

The complete list of ASX200 company rating can be downloaded from:

Promote More Women in the ADF says Sex Discrimination Commissioner

Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick

Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick

The tarnished reputation of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) following several shocking sex scandals, is expected to improve when more women are promoted to senior ranks says Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick.

Ms Broderick is leading the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Review into the Treatment of Women in the Australian Defence Force.

The ADF and the Federal Government asked Ms Broderick to perform the review following the shocking ‘Skype scandal’ that became public in April 2011, when it was revealed a female cadet at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) was filmed, without her knowledge, while having sex with a male cadet.

Ms Broderick tabled a report in the Federal Parliament in August 2012, causing a huge stir in terms of media headlines when it detailed the ADF’s culture of sexual abuse and sexual harassment of women.

Serving women were found to be facing issues of sexual abuse, violence and harassment in the military. Furthermore, women were discouraged from making a complaint for fear of reprisals and the belief that perpetrators may go unpunished.

Now a year later, Ms Broderick’s first audit has been released, detailing the ADF’s response and showing the ADF is so far holding true to its agreement to implement the 21 recommendations.

The recommendations made by the Review into the Treatment of Women in the Australian Defence Force are related to: diversity of leadership; the participation, recruitment and retention of women; workplace flexibility; harassment, violence and abuse; as well as, crucially, the responsibility of Defence leadership itself to deliver and ensure effective reform.

“That audit shows what we have said in recent times, that good progress has been done – good progress has been made, but more work needs to be done,” said Defence Minister Stephen Smith at a July 23 press conference, where he announced the ADF’s creation of a new Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office (SeMPRO).

Mr Smith said the launch of SeMPRO was a “deeply significant milestone” in the continuing work of the ADF leadership, following the aftermath of the Skype Scandal.

“This is to ensure that every man and woman in the Australian Defence Force can feel confident, comfortable, and safe in making complaints of sexual misconduct or sexual mistreatment and most importantly, the role of SeMPRO is to be victim orientated,” Mr Smith explained.

“It is not an investigative body. It is to provide the method of reporting but also to provide counselling, support, and also to perform a preventative and educative role.”

Ms Broderick told Australian Women Online she was pleased that SeMPRO would help empower women to take their complaints outside of the chain of command.

She also applauded the ADF’s appointment of residential support officers at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

Ms Broderick says “it may take a few years” but she believes more higher ranking women are also needed.

“We need to see the promotion of women to senior levels, and that needs to happen in tandem with fixing these issues, building a culture that’s much more inclusive, ensuring that people who do speak out will not be victimised for speaking out.”

The damning statistic of one in four ADF servicewomen experiencing some level of sexual harassment is changing “as we speak” said Ms Broderick.

Military Woman With GunMr Smith said the Australian Defence Force leadership was continuing its work to ensure there was a zero tolerance for inappropriate conduct. 

The ADF’s stance on zero tolerance has in the past been labelled a “rhetoric” by Greg Isolani, from KCI Lawyers in Melbourne, who is regarded as a leader in the field, having represented ADF personnel in sexual harassment cases and appearing in numerous Senate and Government Committees on military compensation issues.

Mr Isolani tells Australian Women Online he sees the new SeMPRO as a “step in the right direction” but “time will tell” if it is an effective addition to existing layers of framework “such as the Defence Force Disciplinary Act, which has been around for 30 years.”

He says there remains cynicism over whether complaints would actually be acted on when it came to “pornography that goes around, the rapes, the lewd comments”.

“It has to be transparent and it has to work so people have confidence in it, so it has to be part of the breakdown of the culture,” Mr Isolani said. “You’ve always been able to complain … but what happens?”

“Those who are serving – the people this matters to – they have to have the confidence that SeMPRO is a place they can go to and doesn’t impact on them in terms of performance reviews and medical reviews about their state of health because some of my clients in the past have copped it twice, so to speak, and been given a medical discharge.”

Ms Broderick says she sees SeMPRO as offering a “safer reporting culture” for women, meaning more scandals will come to light such as the recent allegations which went public in June. A large group of male army officers formed an email ring known as the ‘Jedi Council’ back in 2010 and shared degrading comments and footage of members having sex with women.

Seven News reported 17 men were under investigation, eight were suspended, and three were facing criminal charges, as police accused the ADF of covering up the scandal when detectives started to make inquiries last July.

“When I hear those things revealed, I do feel deeply upset … because I’ve worked with such good women and men across Australia within the ADF,” said Ms Broderick.

“I think what’s changed is the handling of these cases because for many women I met, not only was the incident traumatic, but it was the subsequent handling that really compounded the trauma.”

“As the chief of army said, this is not a case of a few bad apples, this is about a systemic cultural deficiency where … there are a minority group of women who have really deeply distressing stories, and when you look at why that is, I do think it’s still about a systemic issue and that’s what the ADF is working to change.”

Chief of the ADF, General David Hurley, has also acknowledged there would be no “quick fix”.

He told a press conference in July that it would take a sustained effort “over many years” for the ADF to succeed in the type of deep, far-reaching reform they were seeking.

“We do share [Ms Broderick’s] view more work needs to be done and I look forward to our continued engagement with her and the audit team as we move into the next phase,” said General Hurley. 


Lack of family-friendly workplaces leading to loss of talent

Professional women in their 30s are opting out of full-time work at an alarmingly high rate, says the author of new research released today by the University of Melbourne.

Only 38 per cent of Generation X, tertiary qualified women participating in a long-running University of Melbourne study work full-time, compared to 90 per cent of Generation X, tertiary qualified men.

The findings are among the latest to emerge from Life Patterns, Australia’s longest running study of the lives of young people.

Professor Johanna Wyn, Director of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education’s Youth Research Centre, leads the study. She says Australia’s lack of family-friendly workplace policies is to blame for the low participation rates of highly qualified women in the workforce. [Read more…]

Male Business Leaders Support Women in Business

A new leadership group of male CEOs and Chairmen has been formed to elevate the issue of women’s representation in the corporate sector on the national business agenda.

The leadership group, established at a meeting with the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, in Sydney last week, will use their collective influence to develop and drive strategies to progress gender equality in the Australian corporate sector.

The formation of the group was prompted by the ASX Corporate Governance Council recommendations on diversity, which will require each listed entity on the ASX to adopt and disclose a diversity policy that includes measurable objectives relating to gender. [Read more…]

Working Mum Told "Manage Your Family" or Face the Sack

A Western Sydney mother of two has been told by her employer she can no longer work a family-friendly shift which allows her to collect her children from school because it is her job to “manage” her family and not her employers.

Skye Chapman has been ordered by her employer Kagan Logistics to change shifts at the Erskine Park warehouse or possibly face the sack. The company operations manager told a union representative that they have changed Mrs Chapman’s shift “because they can”.

Kagan Logistics boss Steven Hanna told the National Union Of Workers, NSW Branch (NUW) that “his job is to manage the business and the employees’ job is to manager their families.”

NUW spokesman Mark Ptolemy said that the attitude of Kagan Logistics is extremely family unfriendly and flies in the face of modern industrial laws and attitudes. [Read more…]

Telstra Wins Catalyst Award for Gender Diversity Initiative

Telstra has become the first Australian company to win the prestigious Catalyst Award, an annual international award for initiatives that support and advance women in the workplace.

Telstra received the award for its Next Generation Gender Diversity: Accelerating Change for Women Leaders initiative, which has helped boost the number of women in management and executive roles in the company.

The Next Generation Gender Diversity initiative uses an integrated approach to increase women’s representation at senior and pipeline levels and engage men as change agents, creating an inclusive culture of mentoring and networking.

The Catalyst Award annually honors innovative approaches with proven results taken by organisations to address the recruitment, development, and advancement of all managerial women, including women of colour.

On receiving the Catalyst Award in New York last month, CEO of Telstra David Thodey said, “I accept this Award on behalf of Telstra’s employees. We are proud of our progress which has seen an increase in the representation of women in management and executive roles. We are only at the beginning of our journey and over the coming months will be doing even more towards creating a workforce that celebrates diversity and reflects our customer base and community.” [Read more…]

Hillary Clinton advocates for more women in top jobs at the UN

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has told a gathering at the UN in New York that the United Nations must appoint more women to top jobs in order to raise the profile and understanding of women’s equality issues.

“As the United Nations strives to better support the world’s women, it would benefit from having more women in more of its leadership positions,” she said.

Hillary Clinton made her remarks on 12th March at the conclusion of two weeks of discussions by the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The focus of the CSW’s meetings in New York was a 15-year review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action.

Echoing her landmark speech on women’s rights given at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, Hillary Clinton added, “Women’s progress is human progress, and human progress is women’s progress.” [Read more…]