In 2019, BGIS established a dedicated Gender Diversity Committee to drive key initiatives that will improve gender balance across its organisation and support women to assume non-traditional roles, as well as leadership positions. This International Women’s Day, Kylie Duggan, BGIS’ Manager of Organisational Development, Learning and Change and chair of the Gender Diversity Committee, discusses the initiatives launched so far, how committees can achieve positive systemic change, and what motivates her to push for a more gender equal society.
Q. What are the key achievements of the Gender Diversity Committee (GDC) so far, and are there any you’re particularly proud of?
Discussion is always the starting point for change, and first and foremost it’s been a real source of pride to kickstart – and sustain! – a conversation within our organisation around gender diversity and women in leadership.
In our first year, we identified 25 initiatives to tackle and had a strong focus on education. It was fantastic to work with Tradeswomen Australia to deliver unconscious bias briefing sessions for our leadership team, and then go on to develop a toolkit for managers to address unconscious bias and build diverse teams. Further, we de-gendered the language used in position titles, position descriptions and job advertisements, and established professional development opportunities for high-performing female talent, as well as a pilot mentoring program that received very positive feedback from participants.
Q. What initiatives are still in the pipeline?
Our focus in 2021 is on attracting and retaining female talent, with plenty of projects in store to achieve this objective. Chiefly, we will be engaging with a number of secondary and tertiary institutions to encourage young women to consider careers in trade and facilities management, and already we’ve we partnered with RMIT in Melbourne to establish a scholarship for engineering bachelor students who identify as women worth $5,000 per annum plus paid work. We are currently reviewing applications with a commencement date of early April for the successful candidate.
Another area of focus for the committee this year will be better reporting and monitoring of statistics, including gender turnover, promotions, applications, women in leadership and general gender split.
Q. Why do businesses need committees such as this to drive cultural change, and what do you think makes for a successful, functioning committee?
Establishing dedicated committees is a very effective way for businesses to focus attention and awareness on a particular issue and bring about positive systemic change. BGIS’ female participation rate is currently 31%, so until we get the desired 50/50 balance we need to be more purposeful around supporting women in the workplace and attracting women to the facilities management industry.
A successful committee requires people who are passionate about the issue at hand. Variety of perspectives is critical to tackling large challenges, so it’s important that committee members come from diverse backgrounds, with different experiences and from a range of levels of within the business.
From there, it’s good to focus on a few key initiatives at a time, making sure to share the work around and rotate roles and responsibilities to keep everyone engaged.
Q. Why do you think issues like the wage gap and unconscious bias are so stubborn and difficult to fix?
Australia, along with many countries worldwide, has made significant progress towards gender equality in recent decades. However, the gender gaps in the Australian workforce are still prevalent. According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), the current gender pay gap is 20.1%, while only 18.3% of CEO’s in Australia are women.
Research tells us that long-term systemic change takes many generations and from that perspective, gender equality is quite immature. Organisations like WGEA – which keep the discussion going and set the tone for government agendas – are slowly shifting this paradigm. However, the facilities management industry and especially technical areas and trades have historically been male dominated, so the shift towards gender diversity is even harder as you’re essentially starting from scratch. The infrastructure and resources put in place to support such a big cultural change must be very strong.
Q. What are the ultimate outcomes you would like to see resulting from the GDC?
The success of the committee will be when it is no longer needed.
When the initiatives run out of the GDC are part of our organisational DNA and not niche or additional is when we’ll know we have shifted the culture. We still have plenty of work to do to get to this point – I imagine it is still some years away.
Q. What motivates you as chair of the committee?
I truly believe that no one goes out of their way to be unfair or non-inclusive to minority groups, and that often it is a case of misunderstanding and lack of awareness. As the chair of the GDC, I get to combine my passion as an adult educator with my passion for diversity and inclusion. I’m also aware of the amazing cultural, reputational and financial benefits that an organisation gets to enjoy when it has a diverse and inclusive culture, and I’m looking forward to helping BGIS achieve this success.
Kylie Duggan, Manager of Organisational Development, Learning and Change
Cloe Maxwell, Communications Manager