How We Can Empower Australian Women at Work

Most of us are aware of the statistics around gender inequality in the Australian workplace. 

They haven’t improved much in a generation:

  • Two in five women have faced sexual harassment in the workplace in the last five years
  • Australia is currently number 50 on the list of 156 nations ranked by the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Gender Gap Index. 
  • Only 6.2% of CEOs in the ASX 300 are women.

There have been important conversations recently around ‘breaking the bias’ and changing the workplace to better support women. In particular, it’s been inspiring to witness so many young women publicly call out the sexism and discrimination they’ve experienced at work.

The recent public discourse has made me reflect on my own experiences and the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with female clients over 20 years working as a Careers Consultant. 

Too often I’ve heard stories of workplace harassment, women being overlooked for promotion after going on maternity leave, candidates asked at interview if they are planning a pregnancy. My female clients have felt let down by employers who promise all the right things in their marketing but whose culture in reality, is very different.

In my own career, I was asked to take a voluntary redundancy after returning from maternity leave and being denied a request to (temporarily) go part time. My employer had all the right policies, but in this instance, flexibility was not offered. Yes, having the choice to leave makes me privileged, but the fact that I had to decide between my career and my family still makes me angry. 

In my experience, and from the stories of the women I have worked with, it doesn’t matter how many ‘employer of choice for women’ awards your company wins, or ‘positive score cards’ they receive from recruitment agencies. What matters is the lived experiences of the women working there. If women can share stories of the times they’ve been supported at work and the times they haven’t, we can empower each other. 

Transparency equals knowledge and knowledge equals power.

That’s why I’ve taken action to create HerWerk. We need an anonymous platform where women (and men) can share their experiences to push for change in their current workplace. Where other women can get meaningful and actionable information in order to evaluate a company before deciding to join. 

HerWerk is the only Australian company review site focused on factors that matter to women* at work. Companies are rated on a range of criteria from equality of opportunity, pay, family support, professional development, flexibility and culture. Each employer gets a company scorecard. (Think of HerWerk as a Glassdoor for women)

Employers can use the platform to better understand what they’re doing well and where they need to try harder. Frankly, it’s in their interests to find out. During the past two years women left the workplace in record numbers. And yet we know that companies with more women in positions of responsibility perform better.

According to research by Mckinsey and Co. companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams are 21% more likely to outperform on profitability.

Employers willing to take feedback and implement changes to better attract and support women will therefore win out.  Creating real change and fostering greater diversity requires more than just conversation.

It takes action. At HerWerk our mission is to empower women to make better career decisions. 

You can help us achieve this by anonymously rating a company you’ve worked for (it only takes two minutes I promise).

*by women we refer to any person identifying as a women.