The Intelligent Workplace

The Intelligent Workplace

Episode 21

The fight for Workforce Equality, are we winning?

Gemma Lloyd
CEO, Work 180

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On this podcast I’ve been fortunate enough to talk with some amazing women. Women who are blazing new trails in the business world and looking to create opportunities for the next wave of energetic young women. Opportunities that may not have been available to them when they began their career.
 
Gemma Lloyd, CEO and co-founder of Work180, has been an advocate for women her entire career. Work180 is a global jobs network, operating at the forefront of a new workplace revolution. With a new office in New York and London, Gemma can now amplify her efforts on a global scale.
 
In this episode you will hear Gemma’s thoughts on how the fight for equality in the workplace is going. She also shares some great insights about one of her clients who’s efforts are paying off, BHP.

Chris:                                    

Oh, it’s great to have you on, Gemma. Thank you very much for joining me. Now, I’m really looking forward to hearing your thoughts about how you see the landscape changing in terms of equality and diversity in the workforce. Because you’ve actually worked in the IT field prior to establishing WORK180, so you know, let’s say, how bad it can be.

Gemma:                             

Yes, that’s absolutely right. I started my career very early on in the tech industry. The reason why I started WORK180 was because every company that I had worked for, but one, was what I refer to now as, an archaic sort of boy’s club environment. Certainly, I don’t think I was treated the same as my colleagues, but really didn’t know any different at the time. That was until I worked at this company that I said was “but one” where my manager was a woman, and manager’s manager was a woman.

For the first time, I felt listened to, I felt included, I felt like I was in an environment where not just I was thriving, but my colleagues were thriving as well. Became inspired after a series of events, to start WORK180. In the last five years since we’ve started the company, I’ve seen a lot of positive change. I guess the thing is, though, with what I do, is WORK180 does work with the employers that are genuinely committed. That understand the benefits, and the values, and want to create workplaces. So, whilst I see a lot of positive things happen with the companies we work with, there’s certainly a lot more that needs to be done on a larger scale.

Chris:                                    

Absolutely. I’m hearing you. I began my career in banking in the 90s. If that was not a boy’s club, I don’t know what is. So, I’m hearing you.

What you’re saying is that you’re working with the people that want to change, but there’s actually a bit more to do outside of perhaps your clientele.

Gemma:                             

Yeah, that’s right. I think the latest report that came out yesterday from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, which is an Australian federal government agency, with the pay gap since the first of April 2018. It’s only moved half a percentage point, which is nothing really.

Chris:                                    

Absolutely, yeah. So, you work with a lot of employers to help them support the careers of the women in their workforce, or that are entering the workforce. What kind of support do you offer them?

Gemma:                             

Yeah, that’s a great question. With employers, what we do is, the first piece is we pre-screen the company on their policies and initiatives. We’re looking for a range of things like paid parental leave, flexible working, what they’re doing around pay equity, women in leadership programs, coaching programs, those sorts of things. If they meet the minimum benchmark, they can join the platform.

But then it doesn’t stop there, because what we do on a continuous basis with those employers is we are consistently feeding them market insights, what other employers are doing that is making progress. So, the companies that we work with are always growing and improving. When you get a job … Whether you’re a man or a woman, or any gender, the companies that we work with are ones on a continuous journey of improvement.

The other thing is, whilst we strongly advocate for women because obviously that’s where the big problem area is, a lot of what we do is really advocacy for the men, as well, which is interesting. So, making sure men have access to paid parental leave, for example, and flexible working opportunities.

Chris:                                    

Something that I found out only yesterday about your company is that you also offer advice around domestic violence leave, which is something I hadn’t come across in my career. That’s important in two ways, that the people who are affected by it are able to take leave to sort of help heal and organize their personal affairs, but also that there’s no stigma attached to it in the business side of things in the way that you actually deal with it through the human resources department. Just want to sort of touch on that a little bit.

Gemma:                             

Absolutely. I mean, the statistics in Australia are quite confronting when you look at one in three women are victims of domestic violence. It’s really important that we’re promoting to employers, the types of support that they can lend their people if they ever … I mean, the chances are very high that you have victims of domestic violence within your organization. How do you create that environment where people do feel safe to come and speak to you about problems that they’re having, so that they can take the time off they need to be able to either escape the situation or get their lives back on track.

The government did introduce some mandatory domestic violence leave, which is great. But the employers that we work with taking that kind of to the next level. So, we see things at least sort of 10 paid days of leave if you’re a victim of domestic violence. Sometimes we’ve seen organizations actually giving additional funds to an employee in a secret bank account. Because if you’re a victim, quite often your funds are tied with your partner, and they’ve-

Chris:                                     [inaudible 00:07:08]

Gemma:                             

Yeah. So, there’s lots of different things that companies are doing to support it. I think the main thing is creating that really comfortable environment where people can come and talk to you if they are experiencing any of these issues.

Chris:                                    

Yeah, so important. It’s almost five years since you began the company with your co-founder, Valeria. Do you feel like you’re starting to help move the needle of change in terms of what you set out to achieve initially?

Gemma:                             

Absolutely, yes. I mean, we do social impact reports quarterly. It’s amazing, those are just the highlight of my year, I guess, every time I see those come out. Measuring how many employers are improving parental leave policies, or implementing their domestic violence policies, for example. Then what we do is calculate how many employees have been impacted by those policy changes.

The other thing I think is really exciting for me is that we … When we started WORK180, we had a more limited criteria. We didn’t make employers expose that detail publicly, and I still remember when we decided, “No, we need to make this information transparent to job seekers.” It was going to be a really hard conversation with employers to say, “Hey, look. You’ve given us a look at this policy information and we want to expose it publicly on our website,” and having some very difficult phone calls. One was with a large bank, and they were like, “What do you mean you want to expose our policies?” [crosstalk 00:08:47] “Trust us, it’s going to work in your favor,” which it has.

Because what companies have realized is that it’s not about being perfect, it’s about being transparent, and it’s about showing the continuous improvement and progress you’re making. Some companies have a lot of crosses in their boxes on our site, that they don’t offer these things, and that’s okay. At least, as a job seeker, you know exactly what you’re walking into.

Chris:                                    

How do you respond to the naysayers who suggest that despite all of the efforts that we’re making to create a diverse workforce, we aren’t really moving the needle?

Gemma:                             

I mean, if you look at the WDA data, they’re right, on that big scale. I look at it from what WORK180’s doing, and the companies that we, the ones we’re working with are driving change, so we’ve kind of got sort of the most progressive companies on board.

Chris:                                    

So the ones you’re able to influence are actually making a change, but again, there’s that sort of bit around the outside, those companies that aren’t buying in on the whole program.

Gemma:                             

Yeah. They might not be buying in, they might be a bit fearful around a number of different things, or they might not have really understood the benefits of having some of these policies in place. There was one company that we had to remove their endorsement from our site because we dropped the requirements to have paid parental leave. If you were a company with more than 10 employees, you must have paid parental leave over and above government entitlement, and they just didn’t believe that they should have to offer that piece because the government does 18 weeks minimum wage.

We tried to coach them on, it’s not just about giving back. It’s going to improve your retention, it’s going to improve your attraction. That’s fine, they didn’t want to come on that journey with us, but we kind of have to take that strong stance around the support for the people and what we know works. Also, in turn, that is going to have benefits for the employers. To get change on a larger scale, and a lot quicker, WORK180 is certainly driving that change, but I think ultimately what would be amazing for Australia, is if we actually first took a leaf out of the UK’s book.

The UK government makes every company with more than 250 employees, report their pay gap publicly.

Chris:                                    

Oh wow, I like that. Yeah.

Gemma:                             

So, they’ve just introduced, well, they’ve been a couple of years, it was optional and now it’s mandatory, the pay gap for gender. Now the UK’s taking it a step further, and it’s looking like there’s going to be the ethnicity pay gap as well. So, 35 companies have optionally reported on that, publicly, in the UK. I think it’s going to be amazing when they make that mandatory. So, it’s shining the light on not just gender, but diversity from a broader lens.

Chris:                                    

I really want to believe that we are making a difference, but then I look around my office here, an IT company, and in this office here we have 20 people and only three are female. I’m hoping that we are the exception to the rule, and maybe we just have to try harder in the tech space.

Gemma:                             

Yeah, maybe you do.

Chris:                                    

No, actually we do. We do.

Gemma:                             

I don’t necessarily think you’re the exception to the rule. I think that kind of imbalance is quite common. However, there are a lot of companies that are doing it really, really well. There’s obviously a number of things that you can do. First, I think LiveTiles is on the WORK180 site, so certainly-

Chris:                                    

Yes, we are. Yep.

Gemma:                             

Which is fantastic. So, we can help sort of look at your policies and your initiatives, but it’s also around what are you doing in the community to drive that kind of awareness. Women are really attracted to organizations that do a lot of social good and impact, which I do believe LiveTiles does as well. You’ve got involved with our Super Daughter days before.

Chris:                                    

Yeah, absolutely, yeah. So, that’s some of the strategies you’ve been working with, with your partner organizations on implementing. Yeah?

Gemma:                             

Yes, that’s right.

Chris:                                    

I’ve spoke about this idea with Christine Bongard, from Women in Tech, in America, on a previous podcast. It was sort of all about trying to get young girls into tech, from an early age. I wonder if it would be better to let those young women follow their dreams, do what inspires them, then if they stick with that career that’s great because they’re happy in their work. For those who maybe have second thoughts and maybe don’t realize they have transferable skills that will be valuable in the IT space, I sort of wonder how we might get them interested in tech roles.

I’m not talking about coding. There are so many other opportunities, but I think sometimes part of the problem is we always seem to focus on attracting young females into coding roles.

Gemma:                             

That’s right. I think the piece that you mentioned around following your dreams and everything like that, I think that’s great. But I think one of the biggest problems in this space is, young women, it’s not even a consideration around being technical and what that actually means. Then you can’t really dream about something if you don’t kind of understand.

Chris:                                    

That’s perfect. You’ve got it there, haven’t you? How can you dream about something if you’ve got no idea what it is?

Gemma:                             

That’s right. The misconception around what tech is, and you kind of hit the nail on the head there, around it’s just about coding. I think if you can really reframe what it is to work in technology. For instance, I think Zero, the accounting software company does this really where if you kind of think what they do on a day to day basis, really bluntly they create software for accountants, that’s really exciting

But if you look at their mission, and how they actually describe what they do, they describe it as they’re impacting the lives of small business owners to create and build their business and their dreams, in that kind of really inspirational way. I think it’s about not the actual code, it’s about what are the outcomes that are created when you work in technology?

Chris:                                    

I think back on that point about them not realizing what the opportunities are that are available to them. Part of the way that we can fix that with mentors. I think having mentors for young females is really key.

Have you had some great mentors in your career that have helped you get to where you are?

Gemma:                             

I’ve got three mentors right now, who are amazing. I just feel so lucky. One of them, in particular, he’s ex head of [inaudible 00:15:39]. He’s also sort of built and sold two startups before. He’s just incredible. Another one, funnily enough, works at [inaudible 00:15:50] as well, and she is incredible. So, one of our lead investors is Scott [Farquath 00:15:55] [inaudible 00:15:58] the mentors.

Yeah, but in my earlier days I didn’t really have sort of official mentors, but I certainly had women around me that I aspired to and spent a lot of time working with me to up skill me and help me navigate this sort of boy’s club type environment. Faith [Reeves inaudible 00:16:23], she was my bosses boss at that company that I said was amazing. I feel like she really took me under her wing during that organization. I have a lot of respect and a lot of time for Faith, and the support that she gave me.

Chris:                                    

I’m just such a big believer in mentors, whether they be male or female. It’s just so helpful, as you say, getting young females to understand what opportunities are available to them. I think about my daughter whose 11. She’s got both parents, we both work in the IT field in one way, shape, or form. I think she’s going to understand those opportunities, but I think for the majority, it’s still just smoke and mirrors. I don’t understand.

Gemma:                             

Absolutely, yeah.

Chris:                                    

Let’s put that on the list, more mentors for young girls. I read an article this week, which was talking about diversity fatigue. That potentially that we may be suffering from that in some companies, where we’ve been plugging away, plugging away at it. Maybe not seeing the results that we’ve wanted to see. Therefore, it’s like it’s all just too hard.

How do you respond to that and how do we ramp it back up so that they get involved again in trying to create that diverse workforce?

Gemma:                             

I completely understand that because I think a lot of the time with organizations is that they may have a diversity manager or diversity is a sliver of an HR person’s role. Some of the problems that arise that I see is that you might have a diversity manager, but they’re really a toothless tiger. So, they’re not given any budget, any real support to drive the initiatives that they need to drive. It’s kind of like, there’s not an understanding of the effort that needs to truly go behind the initiatives to drive change.

Then the other piece is, I guess, organizations think that they can kind of just push a few photos of women out there, and then cross their fingers, and pray, and hope, and then the women come pouring through the door. It just doesn’t work like that, and it doesn’t happen overnight. I mean, there’s a couple of things.

Diversity and inclusion, number one, it’s not just about women. I think you’ve got to bring men along the journey, and you’ve got to make it exciting for men as well. And it really is, because the amount of men I know that wish they could have taken more time off to spend with their little one when they were born. The flexible working opportunities, you’ve got men just working extremely late hours because they think, “If I go and pick up my kids from school, or I’ve got other commitments,” sporting commitments, or caring commitments, whatever it might be, it looks like I’m less committed to my work.

So, it’s just about changing the attitudes of how that whole piece is perceived. I think if you can kind of bring men along the journey and make it exciting for everyone, that it’s definitely a really good place to start. But it is a journey, and I think you’ve got to celebrate the small wins along the way-

Chris:                                    

Yes, I agree.

Gemma:                             

… driving towards incremental change. BHP is a really, really good example of that, actually. BHP started at a really low place in terms of their DNI and how many women were applying to their organization. When they joined our platform, actually, this was three or four years ago. They literally had on their employee page, “We’re not perfect at all, but we care and we’re trying,” to hire [crosstalk 00:19:59].

Then, over time, they’ve just continued to make these changes bit by bit. They’ve made it about diversity and inclusion for everyone, making sure that the men are supported as well. They’ve been on the forefront of some really great policy initiatives like reducing … Usually when you fall pregnant, to take the parental leave you have to be in an organization for 12 months. BHP reduced that right back down to three months.

Chris:                                    

Oh, wow. That’s fantastic.

Gemma:                             

Yeah. With WORK180 we have zero months.

Chris:                                    

Oh, even better.

Gemma:                             

Like, we don’t want to lose our talent just because they’re pregnant. Because of doing all of these things and making these changes, within 18 months that we were working with them, the number of applications from women increased from 10 percent of their total to 50 percent of their total.

Chris:                                    

Really?

Gemma:                             

Yeah.

Chris:                                    

Oh wow.

Gemma:                             

We had messages from the recruiters, just saying, “Thank you. Women keep siting WORK180, they didn’t realize that BHP were doing all these amazing things.” Like I said, they started off not perfect at all, but they just were committed, and small incremental changes, celebrating the wins. Now, I think that they’re an organization that other companies really look up to.

Chris:                                    

That is fantastic. What about at the top level of BHP, or other companies that you’re working with, because I mean equal female representation at senior level in companies has been a challenge for many years. Are we starting to see a positive change there as well?

Gemma:                             

On a broader scale, across Australia, not really much has changed, which is why the pay gap exists. That has only moved [crosstalk 00:21:40]. Because the pay gap is really about two things. There’s obviously the like for like roles, and there’s definitely problems there, but the main things that sort of contribute to that gap is the disparity in leadership, and then that men’s work is valued more than women’s work.

So, if you look at engineers verse heavily female dominated industries such as nursing, those things all kind of contribute. What the pay gap is a key indicator of is largely that kind of disparity. I think only 17.7 percent of CEOs in Australia are women.

Chris:                                    

Yep, oh geez.

Gemma:                             

We’re pretty bad.

Chris:                                    

Yeah, not great.

Gemma:                             

Which is crazy because the data says when you have a gender balanced leadership team, you’re more profitable.

Chris:                                    

I just don’t get it. Gemma, what would you say to people that have the view that in looking to move the needle towards a more equal workforce, that we are focusing perhaps too much on gender, therefore removing the focus from making decisions based on actual merit?

Gemma:                             

This is one that people say all the time. “We hire whoever’s best for the role,” is a classic one that I hear. I think the intentions are all good with what they’re trying to say, and they’re trying to say, “We’re not biased. We genuinely think we’re hiring whoever’s best for the role.” However, it’s actually just not the case. When you look at the research it’s just not the case.

So, merit is defined by the predominant demographic in a group. So, say for instance, the predominant demographic is 45 year old white males, and they’re defining what merit actually looks like, then it’s probably going to be in a mirror image of themselves. Therefore, merit, the right person for the role doesn’t open people’s minds up to something different.

Chris:                                    

Yeah, I’m hearing you. I’m hearing you, yeah.

Gemma:                             

So, it’s a common misconception. It’s like, if you’re hiring the right people for the role, why is all your leadership team men? What are you trying to say?

Chris:                                    

Yeah, I know. My wife works in IT down here in Hobart, and works with some very senior people. Often she’ll say that she’s the only female in the room. I want it to change, it just doesn’t seem like it’s working just yet.

Gemma:                             

No. I completely empathize, and I’ve been in her position.

Chris:                                    

Now, you recently gave birth to your son, Charlie. Congratulations first and foremost. What do you think it will be like when he enters the workforce in 20 years or so from now? Do you think we’ll have equality or are we still going to be fighting?

Gemma:                             

The data suggests that we won’t have equality in 20 years-

Chris:                                    

That’s so deflating.

Gemma:                             

It is, it is. That’s at the cut, if we keep moving at the current rate. I think, though, that we will start seeing things accelerate and that will obviously then bring that number down. I think, as WORK180 really grows, we’re collecting a lot more data, and we can show, “These companies who are doing these things are getting these results. In turn, these companies have high profitability, or less staff turnover,” or whatever it might be. When you start being able to collate things, hopefully then people can start paying attention.

The other thing that I think is really going to drive this is the millennials and the younger workforce is coming through. I just don’t think that the younger guys in particular want to work somewhere that’s a really boy’s club-y type environment [crosstalk 00:25:19].

Chris:                                    

[crosstalk 00:25:19] in my experiences in working with the younger crowd these days … I say “the younger crowd,” it makes me sound so old. They are very head strong and their ideas are great, and I just don’t think that they’ll put up with it.

Gemma:                             

Yep, absolutely.

Chris:                                    

Maybe that’s the thing, the new generation coming through will drive sweeping change, which hopefully will occur for the better.

Gemma:                             

I hope so. I hope so. I’m sure Charlie will definitely be an advocate in this space.

Chris:                                    

If you had one idea that you could plant in the heads of those younger people coming through the workforce to fix this, a magic wand, what do you think it’d be?

Gemma:                             

I think if they select their employers based on which employers are doing all the right things in this space, then everybody else has no choice but to listen and to start making [crosstalk 00:26:08] because they’re missing out on talent.

Chris:                                    

Absolutely. Soon enough they’ll realize their mistakes and they’ll want to keep up with the Jones’, so to speak. Gemma, thank you very much for joining me today. I’ve really enjoyed this discussion. I love the work that you’re doing. Thank you for working with us here at LiveTiles. I think, hopefully together we’re making some great change, so thank you very much.

Gemma:                             

Yeah, you’re welcome. It was a pleasure.

Chris:                                    

Thanks.

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