Ambassador Dr Brendon Hammer
Permanent Representative and Ambassador of Australia
UNODC Conference: Empowering Women Leaders in International AML/CFT (Anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing)
Panel: Promoting a Culture of Gender Empowerment in the Workplace
16 April 2019
First let me say how pleased I am to be able to make this presentation to you today.
I am here not just as a representative of Australia – but also in a personal capacity – to advocate for gender equity and women’s empowerment.
This is something I personally feel strongly about.
As an International Gender Champion, as a Co-Chair of the Group of Friends for Women in Nuclear, and on the basis of my personal reading and experience I have found that as well as being the right thing to do on social justice grounds, achieving equal representation of women and men is also the intelligent thing to do.
A number of studies now show that gender equality leads to more successful organisations as does wider diversity in a workforce more generally.
For example, we now know that organisations with a critical mass of women in senior management perform better across a range of performance markers.
It turns out that gender equality strengthens outcomes, improves profitability, drives innovation and enhances decision-making. So it enables organisations to serve their clients, communities and stakeholders much better.
There is also research emerging to indicate that creating a workplace inclusive of diversity improves overall measures of physical and emotional health in a workplace.
For these reasons – and also because it is Australian Government policy – and endorsed by all major sides of Australian politics I have made promoting gender equality a priority of my Embassy’s work here in Vienna.
So – for example – apart from founding and co-chairing – with Mexico – the Group of Friends for Women in Nuclear, whose central aim is to deliver gender equality at the International Atomic Energy Agency, Australia also – along with Mexico – introduced the first resolution on mainstreaming a gender perspective into criminal justice processes at the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in May 2017.
Australia also recently provided the UNODC with $65,000 to fund training on gender mainstreaming at five of its regional offices.
And beyond Vienna-based processes, Australia has – as a member of the Human Rights Council – made multiple statements in support of gender equity and women’s empowerment. We have also supported UN Women since its inception and in 2017 we were its ninth largest overall funder providing USD15.8 million in 2017 in core and project funding.
Australia is also one of the few countries to have a dedicated Ambassador for Women and Girls. There are only 10 countries that have such an Ambassador at this stage. Ours is Dr Sharman Stone – you can find her on Twitter.
We also last year appointed a Women in STEM Ambassador, Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith. A charismatic astrophysicist, Lisa now leads our strong government efforts to encourage more girls and women to study and work in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.
And beyond all this – in 2017 to 2018 – Australia delivered around $1.3 billion in development assistance that targeted gender equality and women’s empowerment.
But turning now to inside Australia itself – how do we promote a culture of gender empowerment in the workplace?
Well certainly, in my own department – the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – we have embarked on a program of cultural change.
In 2014, we identified that only 34% of our senior executive were women and that only 27% of our heads of mission were women.
We also realised that this was the case despite our having recruited roughly the same number of men and women graduates since the mid-1980s and that women had certainly been performing as strongly as men at all levels.
So in 2015 we got in an external consultant who identified a number of reasons why women were being disadvantaged.
These reasons included that
- prevailing ‘masculine notions of leadership’ meant unconscious assumptions were made about women’s capability and suitability for particular roles, what we now simply call “unconscious bias”;
- we had a highly competitive environment, where women were less comfortable with self-promotion and less likely to be perceived as confident;
- there was limited institutional acceptance of part-time and flexible working arrangements that meant women were often less able – or were perceived to be less able – to take on roles requiring long hours.
So – in November 2015 – my department launched its first Women in Leadership Strategy which was directed at meeting these cultural challenges. Three-and-a-half years later we feel we are tracking well.
Our progress includes:
- setting and tracking targets to achieve gender balance in our senior executive by 2020;
- sharing more gender-disaggregated data with staff, including for recruitment and postings processes;
- asking “50:50 if not, why not?” in all recruitment and selection processes;
- assessing managers’ practice of inclusive leadership in performance appraisals;
- adopting an ‘if not, why not?’ approach to flexible and remote work;
- introducing unconscious bias training for managers and key human resources staff;
- promoting women role models;
- and establishing a staff network for gender equality, the Workplace Gender Equality Network.
Through these efforts there has been steady progress towards senior executive targets.
Currently, 38 per cent of our Senior Executive Band 1 officers and 32% of our Senior Executive Band Two officers are women – improvements of 2 and 7 % respectively - and now women make up 40 per cent of our Heads of Missions and posts – up from 27% in 2014.
But we know that we need to keep up our efforts to ensure that we keep seeing progress.
Our survey data shows that our leadership and culture is changing for the better but not all of our staff embrace Women in Leadership.
It is also true that implementation across our overseas network of Posts is uneven, with some posts facing additional challenges such as limited flexible work options, difficult local labour laws and complex cultural contexts, including in countries with higher gender-based discrimination & violence.
But we are in this for the long haul, and we will keep pushing.
I want to say something now about the role of men in all this, and the basic message I want to get across is that men need to get engaged if all of us are to reap the benefits of achieving gender equality and balance in the workplace. The essential premise is that it should not – and cannot – be left to women alone to promote gender equality.
It is largely men who have made the institutions that we all work in and it is largely still men who run them. So clearly men are needed to help engineer change in our institutions.
One of Australia’s most effective and creative initiatives in this area has been to form a group of men who call themselves: Male Champions of Change. Go ahead and google it up.
These are men – and there are now around 210 of them – that come from the very top of both our government and private sector organisations. They are the heads of our major companies and of our Government Departments, aAnd they are dedicated to empowering women both within and beyond their own organisations.
The group was formed in recognition that men must also lead and be active advocates of empowering women. In other words – and as I have already said – in recognition that women cannot – and should not be expected to – change workplace and societal culture on their own.
The group produced an impact report in 2018. The report shows that some of the key achievements of organisations run by our Male Champions of Change include:
- 70% of organisations are actively disrupting the status quo with better approaches to recruitment, talent & promotions;
- 83% of organisations are conducting and actioning gender pay equality audits at least every two years;
- 81% of organisations mainstreaming flexible work across their workforces.
I think this is as good a place as any to conclude my remarks.
I hope you’ve found these examples of Australia’s attitudes and actions useful for forming your own ideas on how to take women’s empowerment forward in your own sphere.
Thank you for listening.