Times have changed, but we still have a way to go

27 September 2018
Jenny Gregg is the Executive General Manager Business Services at Stanwell Corporation Limited. She’s held senior leadership roles across various businesses for more than 25 years, giving her a front row seat to the inequalities still faced by women in the workforce. Jenny reflects on how things have changed, and what still needs to occur to bring us closer to equality at work.

In 1968, Jenny’s sister, Kay, had to keep her new marriage a secret so as not to lose her job. At the time, she was an Executive Assistant to a CEO in the Queensland public service. The law at the time (known as the marriage bar) prevented women from working in the public service once they married.  As a result, Kay, and all women at that time, were required to give up their jobs once they married.

Before long, the secrecy became too much for Kay and she said goodbye to a job she loved and her chances for a career.

Jenny says it’s easy to forget how far we’ve come to enjoy the more even playing field we have today.

“While I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a long career, over the years I’ve seen many injustices in the workplace towards women and those with a disability,” she says.

“It’s alarming that in 2018 we’re still seeing a considerable pay gap, occupational segregation in many industries and even cases of sexual harassment.”

Diversity is good for business

What is good for business though, is diversity. It’s almost universally accepted now that diversity and inclusion is a key driver of business success. A 2016 study by EY and the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that companies with at least 30 per cent female leaders had higher profit margins than companies with no women in senior ranks.

Meanwhile, according to the Australian Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), women today are paid 23 per cent less than men. And that’s a problem that starts early in a woman’s life, with Westpac recently finding girls receive 27 per cent less pocket money than boys for their household chores.

Jenny says the biggest obstacles we face today are pay parity and ensuring our workplaces provide an environment where we can all do our best work and thrive.

“Diversity adds richness to the workplace, which eventually improves the bottom line,” she says.

“At Stanwell, we looked into our own gender pay gap and were surprised by the extent of the issue, but we’ve already started taking steps to make improvements.”

Stanwell’s pay gap review

In late 2017, Stanwell’s People and Culture team undertook a pay parity review across the company’s seven sites. They already knew there was substantial occupational segregation at Stanwell’s sites, with women more likely to undertake lower paid administrative and support roles and men more often occupying  trade and professional roles.

The review found there was a 15 per cent gender pay gap, somewhat as a result of women’s starting salaries being, on average, lower than male new starters. Meanwhile, women across Stanwell were consistently achieving slightly higher annual performance ratings than men.

“The evidence of our review demonstrated that, on average, women are gradually catching up each year by performing well and achieving incentives, but it’s not enough to bring them up to par on an overall salary level due to their lower starting point.

“As a result, we identified 16 female employees whose salaries were misaligned with male counterparts in like-for-like roles, and boosted their pay to bring them up to par.

“These were everyday women from across our business who were unknowingly victims of inequality.

“We have an exceptionally low turnover at Stanwell, so just waiting for more women to enter our workforce and ensuring they were on higher starting salaries was not going to be enough for us to reduce the pay gap. Our remuneration review has enabled us to immediately address obvious cases of inequality.”

Supporting women in the workforce

Stanwell’s gender pay review is one of several measures the company is taking to encourage greater diversity and inclusion in its workplace. Its efforts are already working, with a six per cent increase in female job applicants this year.

Recently, Stanwell’s leadership team also approved a proposal to ensure its employees on extended unpaid maternity leave, still accrue long service leave. This change follows the Super Care initiative Stanwell introduced in 2017 which aims to impact the retirement income gap of women.

“We aim to encourage women to build a future here, from the ground up. We offer 14 weeks of paid maternity leave, flexibility in many roles, and fantastic learning, apprenticeship and graduate programs.  Everyone here has the opportunity to be able to develop their skills so they realise their career goals.”

When asked what a perfect diverse and inclusive workplace looks like, Jenny jokes that she’s not sure she’ll be working long enough to see it come fully to fruition.

“I would love to see the day when we have equal numbers of men and women in our trades-based roles and the number of female university graduates is directly reflected across our workforce and leadership positions.

“We all have daughters, sisters, mothers and we want to be in a world that embraces their skills and intellect at every level of business.”

Our difference is our strength

After several decades as a senior leader, Jenny’s advice to women hoping to enjoy successful careers is to be authentic.

“You don’t need to be embarrassed about being different. Your difference is your strength.”

And if you do face discrimination, she says there is a range of things you can do.

“Don’t let it go on too long and don’t put yourself in the wrong. By that, I mean calmly explain why the other person’s behaviour is not conducive to a healthy working relationship and don’t let it get to the point where your frustration gets the better of you.

“The law and your office policies back you up.  If you feel victimised, threatened or uncomfortable at work seek help and support from your manager, HR representative or your company’s Employee Assistance Program.

“The days are gone when any woman has to put up with it.”

While intellect, determination and a sense of humour undoubtedly saw Jenny achieve the levels of senior leadership she has, she reveals she never set out to get to executive level.

“Back yourself! I didn’t have a defined career plan, but I took opportunities as they arose and educated myself along the way. Then I just swam like mad so I didn’t sink.

“If I could encourage women to do one thing, it’s to have the confidence to speak up. Remember, the value we offer (other than being excellent at our jobs) is our unique perspective – so it’s important to  ask lots of questions,  give your considered views, and challenge the way things have always been done.”

A snapshot of diversity and inclusion at Stanwell

To drive cultural change, Stanwell has implemented aspirational targets, rather than hard targets.

Current statistics (2018) Aspirational targets (2022)
o   7% Life Flexibility

o   3% People with Disability

o   11% iGeneration

o   11% Women in Senior roles

o   6% People born outside Australia or from Non-English speaking background

o   1% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI)

o   25% Life Flexibility

o   8% People with Disability

o   20% iGeneration

o   40% Women in Senior roles

o   10% People born outside Australia or from Non-English speaking background

o   2% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI)