How do Millennials view gender equality in the workplace?

Gender diversity in the workplace

Kelly Bayer Rosmarin, our Group Executive Institutional Banking and Markets, and Fiona Burke, Graduate, chat about gender equality in the workplace.

Fiona Burke: Kelly, I’ve just started as a graduate at CommBank. What advice would you give a young woman at the beginning of her career – is there anything you would do differently?

Kelly Bayer Rosmarin: The best advice I think I can give you is to keep challenging yourself and make sure you’re learning. Take yourself out of your comfort zone – don’t be afraid to try new things or take calculated risks to build your experience and exposure to new challenges. Build your networks. Look around the Group and you will find fantastic role models – male and female – who have so much experience to share.

Kelly Bayer Rosmarin: It feels like we’ve been talking about gender equality for decades. As someone fresher to the discussion, how do we inject new life into the conversation?

Fiona Burke: Well for one thing – I think the conversation has become a little stale. Many of my female friends are unaware that gender equality is still an issue and feel that the ‘feminist’ movement is pointless. Lots of young women living in Australia believe that having the same theoretical rights as men (in terms of the right to vote, to work and so on) means that men and women are equal. They’re unaware of issues such as the glass ceiling and gender pay gaps until they actually start working. Emma Watson’s address to the UN was a big conversation starter late last year and a number of my male friends signed up for the ‘HeForShe’ movement, but unfortunately it seems that the discussion about gender equality has quietened since then.

Fiona Burke

Kelly Bayer Rosmarin: So how should we take this conversation forward to a younger generation entering the workforce? Is it still relevant? 

Fiona Burke: Firstly, I think we’ve got to make it relevant to everyone – not just women. I know we’ve made a lot of progress, but we’ve also got to challenge the perception that it’s not an issue any more. Providing some solid statistics about the position of women would help to combat the myths. I also think we need to look at gender in a more sophisticated way – are gender issues the same for all women? If you are LGBTI, Indigenous, or a woman with disability? As a community we should think about targeting campaigns directly to my generation and encourage young role models to courageously speak out more about these issues. I attended the International Women’s Day breakfast in Sydney last Friday and was inspired by the conversation around the importance of all people from a variety of diverse backgrounds getting involved. It’s not going to happen without each person putting in effort.

Fiona Burke: What can leaders do to create more equality for women?

Kelly Bayer Rosmarin: As leaders we have a responsibility to create the best environment for all our talent to succeed. At CommBank we’re committed to increasing the representation of women in senior leadership roles. But our work doesn’t stop there.  It’s not just about getting women into leadership roles; it’s about creating an environment that allows them to thrive in all levels of an organisation. We’re taking a holistic approach with initiatives like mentoring, career resiliency, recruitment and talent management practices, parental leave support; and flexible work and leave options to help make this happen. We’ve made some positive and genuine progress with 34.4 per cent of senior leaders being women, but there’s still more work we need to do.

I think society has also got to look at how the nature of our workforce is changing. I know many women who are the main breadwinners and men who are staying at home. We need to take a contemporary view of the reality out there. Changing societal norms, attitudes and behaviours is hard - there’s no silver bullet - but talking about it, and listening to each other, is a good start. 

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