International Women’s Day 2022 has come and gone and yet, we’re still talking about: 

  • Gender stereotypes around parenting (which has increasingly been extended into elder care)  
  • Lack of childcare options enabling all women to have real choice regarding the work they do 
  • Stereotypes regarding the type of work that is suitable for specific genders
  • Ongoing sexual harassment in the workplace and in society generally 
  • A persistent gender pay gap, driven by multiple factors, including the first two listed points listed here 
  • Implicit and systemic bias in organisational processes for hiring, firing, promotion, and key project assignment 
  • Lack of flexibility afforded to senior management and key technical or operational roles 

Whilst I fully, and sadly recognise that we have a LONG way to go, I am so incredibly pleased to see the real progress being made in our network on many of these issues. 

Here are some examples of the policy changes and culture shifts possible when we commit to transformational change. 

Parental leave 

The majority of NAWO members have revised their parental leave policies to remove the reference to ‘maternity leave’ and primary and secondary carer. Some have even removed the requirement to be with the company for 12 months to qualify for leave. Many have introduced leave for pregnancy and childbirth complications and IVF. 

Aurizon was one of the first companies to completely redesign their approach to supporting parents, having the courage to flip the conversation and ask their people what it was they needed to be able to both support their families and come back to work – resulting in their ‘shared care’ initiative that is changing the nature of the conversation between partners at their kitchen tables around work and care. 

Pernod Ricard’s ‘Better Balance’ strategy included a revamp of their parental leave policy. A key element of which is a checklist to assist managers in better explaining the benefits of their policy to all parents regardless of gender. You can read more about it here.  


It is great to see some of our members considering how they can provide more childcare options for employees, but there is HUGE scope for reimagining this space.

Our knowledge share forum last year sparked some conversation about how we might reimagine our default to ‘leave’ being the only options for parents, exploring an alternative idea where companies could consider offering support for in-home care, instead of leave or as a complement to leave, to enable people to continue to participate in the workplace rather than opt out. 

Whilst it was a ‘radical’ idea to suggest (it really did have some brains going into meltdown over the logistics of it) it is an example of how we need to continue to push the boundaries and reinvent rather than refine the default systems that have been in play for a very long time.

Other ideas that can and are being considered to support parents at work include the provision of employee subsidies for in home care, after and before school care, in home care to attend work functions/conferences and training as well as the provision of flexibility in working hours and location as needed.

Flexible Working Arrangements 

Speaking about flexibility. I am pleased to say that the majority of NAWO member companies are not reverting to the ‘you must be in the office’ model of work that existed prior to the COVID work from home evolution. The hybrid approach looks to be the choice of progressive companies, and whilst there will be issues that employees and workplaces will need to navigate through in order to make it work – it must work, and it can work. 

I still really love Bluescope’s BFlex approach that calls out the flexibility status of different jobs and takes a positive ‘how can we flex’ stance from the get-go. Bluescope adopted this approach pre covid, many companies have evolved their flex work approach since which is one positive outcome from the pandemic. This is a great piece on the changing world of work by PWC. 

What we need to further focus on is flexibility in senior roles – job share is definitely making a comeback and we will be on the hunt for positive stories of job share, flexibility and part-time working at senior levels – if you have a story to share please let us know! 

Talent Recruitment 

There has been substantial change in the imagery and language used on recruitment site landing pages, and in job advertisements. We now see many more diverse people represented in recruitment advertising by our members (be warned – we will continue to call out ads that are not working to #breakthebias!). Here is a terrific example – Dulux Groups ‘work with us’ site.  

The continuing challenge is to drill down into job criteria and ask ourselves what is ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED and what is not. What is trainable, what is not – and open our minds to how jobs CAN be done, not how they can’t be done. Here is a great example of a stripped back and still extremely effective job advert with GWF.  

Sexual Harassment in The Workplace  

We had an enormous turnout to our executive forum focussing in on the prevention of Sexual Harassment in the workplace last year and whilst many companies are taking some action I would particularly like to call out the following member companies for their unwavering leadership BHP, Programmed, Rio Tinto, Bradken, Coles, Bunnings, Bega, Bluescope, and Essential Energy. Leaders in these businesses have taken responsibility, actively instigated initiatives that have uncovered issues, brought systemic failure to light, and commenced the implementation of actions that will have a very positive impact into the future.

These businesses are linking their prevention strategies with the systems they have in place for safety, dealing with flaws in reporting of incidents, taking a ‘believe first’ approach when dealing with people who come forward with issues, holding people to account and scrutinising the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements – just to name a few points of focus. Members can access the resources from our 2021 Executive Forum here.

The Gender Pay Gap 

Finally, the gender pay gap. The positive news is that the majority of NAWO member companies have completed a pay audit in the last 2 years and the gender pay gap amongst our members is lower than across industry more broadly – so WELL DONE.  

The sad news is that not all these pay audits are aligned with clear plans to bridge the gap. If you have a gap – rip the band aid off and address the root cause.  

Some examples of how you can do this include:  

  • Remove any requirement to declare previous salary in application forms or hiring processes – as this can perpetuate the gap 
  • Pay for the job equitably in comparison to the size and complexity of other jobs in your workplace, not for what the person previously earned 
  • Stop paying part time people part time salaries for full time hours (or expecting full time workload and hours to be completed by people working part time) 
  • A compressed work week is different to part time and should be remunerated appropriately 
  • Pay superannuation on unpaid and paid parental and carers leave 

The Journey Continues Even After International Women’s Day Ends

At NAWO, we celebrate women every day.

The road ahead is long and there is lots of work to do, but we are here to meet the challenge. We are committed to continuing this important work with our members and look forward to achieving more great outcomes with them in the future. 


If you want to transform your current organisation into a truly inclusive and balanced workplace at every level of operations beyond International Women’s Day, we can support you.  

NAWO works with an engaged network of individual and corporate members who share our commitment to inspire and drive positive change in leadership gender diversity. We help our members achieve their goals through: 

  • NAWO national webinars & events 
  • The NAWO mentoring program 
  • Industry solutions 
  • Professional development programs 
  • Company brand recognition 
  • Online member community & resources 

Contact us here for more information.