Defined entities have a duty to promote gender equality when developing policies and programs and in delivering services that are to be provided to the public, or have a direct and significant impact on the public.
Defined entities should apply an intersectional gender lens when taking action to comply with this duty. An intersectional gender lens means taking a perspective that considers people’s overlapping attributes (such as age, gender, sexuality, race etc) to understand the discrimination or disadvantage they face.
Examples of work that could benefit from an intersectional gender lens include:
- providing gender analysis training
- developing and reviewing policies, programs, and services
- procuring goods, services, suppliers or consultants
- developing contracts
- assessing the provision of funding or grants
- recruiting, developing or promoting staff
- developing processes and strategies
- communicating with stakeholders and the community.
Building organisational awareness is key to gaining employee buy-in, support and engagement with proposed actions to address intersectional gender inequality. Organisations should use a multipronged approach via executives and senior leaders, employee-wide engagement, and through the voices of employees with intersectional attributes. Examples could include:
- Executives and senior leaders should make a public commitment to build a diverse, intersectional workforce, and reduce discrimination or disadvantage. This can be achieved through a written statement on a website or a video of senior leaders committing to intersectionality, and publicly promoting current work underway that uses an intersectional lens.
- Executives and leaders should demonstrate their commitment through role modelling inclusive behaviour and actively engaging in actions that make a tangible difference to tackling intersectional gender inequality.
- Organisations can engage employees through initiatives that build organisational awareness of intersectionality, such as celebrating and leveraging commemorative days to create awareness.
- Organisations can promote understanding of intersectionality and develop an awareness of biases, barriers, disadvantages, and discrimination (systemic and individual) through training programs and workshops.
- Organisations should also review imagery and language in internal and external facing publications. This will communicate widely across the organisation that the entity is inclusive of all people with intersectional attributes.
- Organisations should promote the voices of employees with intersectional attributes on internal forums (such as Townhalls, Panels of Speakers) and in both internal and external media. This will normalise their visibility and representation and encourage greater inclusion.
- Organisations should support staff–led networks that provide a safe space for employees who may experience intersectional gender inequality. Ensure employee groups have executive sponsorship and provide adequate funding and other resources if they are a volunteer group.
- Organisations need to highlight the views of their employees with intersectional attributes (with their permission) and share widely the de-identified intersectional data collected, to better inform decision-makers on staff’s experiences, and guide their responses.
Organisations can also work towards applying an intersectional gender lens to their duty to promote gender equality by strengthening intersectional community and stakeholder engagement. Examples could include:
- Organisations should conduct meaningful consultation that obtains intersectional perspectives from within the community. Identify the groups of people with similar intersectional attributes in your gender equality stakeholder map, such as community groups representing different intersectional attributes (Aboriginality, age, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, race, religion, sexual orientation, and other attributes).
- Collaborative and inclusive relationships with these groups will provide insights into engagement and possible actions that can be taken. It will also allow intersectional community members to raise concerns regarding the impact of service delivery to them.
- When engaging with community groups, ensure that appropriate feedback mechanisms are in place.
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Read about how an organisation used its year-end celebrations to engage employees with intersectional attributes to share diverse stories.
A defined entity in the utility sector with 500 staff in a regional area, has been since 2016, actively trying to improve gender inequality in their organisation and in their community engagements. From 2016 to 2018, this entity has had a very siloed approach to diversity and inclusion, developing five “streams” of focus namely: Gender, LGBTIQA+, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, Disability and; Cultural and Linguistically Diverse People. From 2016, each stream had in place a semi-active, staff-led network. From 2018-2020 substantive progress was made, on gender equality, especially with the appointment of women into two key roles (the CEO and Chair of the Board – a ‘first’ in the history of the organisation). This entity also created targets to achieve gender balance in all leadership roles by 2022.
Challenge and Complications
While the focus on gender equality has yielded progress since 2018 (a 4% improvement of women in senior leadership roles and a 11% improvement in management roles), a gender analysis of successful candidates has shown that this progress has not been intersectional, apart from women being representative of different ages. Entity leaders recognised that this representation across different ages, was coincidental, as there were no specific programs or initiatives to encourage applicants across various age groups. The gendered data analysis showed clearly that there have been no women appointed who identified as Aboriginal, gender diverse, sexually diverse, living with a disability, racially, or ethnically diverse.
While entity leaders, people and culture committed in 2019 to take a more intersectional approach, the lockdown during 2020 impacted planned deliverables. Gender targets were not met, mainly due to a freeze on hiring, restructures and redundancies. While there was good intention to investigate intersectionality, working from home, along with personal pressures, inhibited volunteer staff-led networks, people and culture and leaders from moving forward.
Towards the end of 2020, a working group comprised of people and culture leaders, members of various staff led networks, managers and leaders presented a case for change to the CEO, to make gender equality more intersectionally inclusive, leveraging the Gender Equality Act’s guidance on intersectionality. The CEO immediately approved, championed this with the Board and became the key sponsor of the working group which formed into an Equality, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EEDI) Council.
The EEDI Council decided to leverage the learning from the progress on gender equality, which began with building awareness through the communication of stories to promote the organisations commitment. This aligned with the Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector’s (CGEPS) guidance of ‘building organisational awareness’. The learning for this entity from the CGEPS guidance was to also build community awareness and ensure visibility of gender equality in community engagements and with stakeholders simultaneously.
Based on this learning, one of the first actions in November 2020, was to launch with the internal communications team, an employee engagement and community engagement campaign called, ‘A Very Diverse Year End’, as it was widely acknowledged that employees and the community had been through a very tough year. The EEDI Council also recognised that the usual year end campaign, was focussed on Christmas which was not intersectionally inclusive.
Members of the staff led networks also advocated for data collection with respect to lived experiences. It was agreed that in addition to collecting data on intersectional demographics (where staff could self-identify), a key question would be added to the employee engagement survey, i.e. “What personal attribute or identity creates a barrier for you at work?”.
It was also agreed that the entity’s 2030 Strategy for Regional Prosperity be updated to reflect a public commitment to intersectionality, post gathering of community demographic data.
“The Very Diverse Year End” campaign run in the community and internally for employees, yielded stories that showcased the intersectional diversity and intersectional inequality experienced by employees and community members. It also revealed the lack of leadership and management awareness of these lived experiences. The stories prompted two key actions:
- To improve the imagery and language that is publicly available.
- To create a calendar of commemorative days to celebrate different cultures, traditions, practices and needs.
The EEDI Council now has clear buy in from the CEO and Board Chair to focus on gender equality from an intersectional perspective, as evidenced through the public commitment made in the 2030 Strategy for Regional Prosperity. Demographic data analysis of the community revealed that there are 49% men, 51% women, 1% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, 12% Cultural and Linguistically Diverse People; and 15% living with a disability. The 2030 Strategy now links the region’s economic, social and environmental growth, to how the entity’s people are representative of the community they serve. This commitment communicates publicly that there is work to be done on improving representation and inclusion.
The employee engagement data was analysed, especially with respect to the question on, “What personal attribute or identity creates a barrier for you at work?”. This revealed that women who identify as Aboriginal, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse and living with a disability face the most barriers to inclusion at work.
The EEDI Council along with the Executive Leadership Team have committed to the following next steps to continue to promote gender equality intersectionally:
- Plans to engage their relevant Minister (who was also the first woman), to share the intersectional 2030 Strategy for Regional Prosperity, so that she can champion and share progress.
- A gender impact assessment focussing on new utility connections, billing and enquiries and complaints with an intersectional focus on Aboriginal, CALD and Disability.
- Intensive leadership training and coaching:
- on the changing role of a leader (responsible for both high performance, equity and inclusion in the business and how people serve the community),
- on understanding intersectional gender barriers at work.
- on how to be vocal and visible along with women representing intersectional attributes to continuously share stories of lived experience and what can be done to remove or reduce barriers.
- Regular internal communications focussing on equity, equality and inclusion to amplify intersectionality rather than the ‘pillared approach’.
- Amending gender targets to include intersectionality at entry, management and leadership levels.
- Establish EEDI Council reporting, (at least 3 monthly) into the Executive Leadership Team to ensure that there is a consistent dialogue on gender equality from an intersectional perspective.
Reviewed 23 March 2022