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Cath Harris

This year’s International Women’s Day celebrations have given plenty of column inches and debates (including a particularly passionate one on Q&A this year) asking the question of whether or not we have made sufficient progress in the representation of women.

Debate has focussed upon whether visibility of women in positions of leadership (just look at our federal cabinet), in salary representations for equal roles, and development opportunities are being offered to give women the opportunity to grow and advance are being approached with sufficient urgency in Australia.

One thing that we've learned at Slater and Gordon is that the issue of gender equality is multifaceted and requires steady effort to bring about cultural change. If you don’t approach inclusiveness in an open and authentic way, then employees and leaders will see through the rhetoric.


So what have our lessons been in promoting gender equality?

Employees expect a visible representation of female role models to believe that the commitment to gender diversity exists. Our first chair, Anna Booth, was a signal to our workforce that we were committed to diversity. She was accessible and a credible advocate for the contribution that women make in the workforce.

Men were part of our journey too – and senior men at that. When the Managing Director takes his children to school before attending work, it is a powerful message that men champion family too. It also sets an example that it’s possible for other men too.

Having a suite of flexible work options for all employees, including the ability to work from home is critical to enable our employees to balance outside commitments with work commitments. In the vast majority of cases, we are able to accommodate both men and women irrespective of whether an individual has family commitments or not.

Focusing on what is achieved and how it is achieved through our performance competency framework is still a work in progress, but has increased trust of our workforce that we measure what is important and creating an “hours on the clock” culture.

Introducing mechanisms to recognise and raise awareness to our Board of the employees who exemplify our values has celebrated the client service, learning, leadership and diverse population across our various locations.

Adopting an “internal first” recruitment bulletin enables transparency of promotion opportunities and increases the confidence of our people. It also reinforces that progression is possible and available across a geographically diverse office network.

Ensuring that we embed a 70:20:10 model of learning, by responding to the development needs of our workforce continues to evolve each day. To our employees it signals that we value knowledge development, transfer and consider it an investment in both of our futures.

Having a range of well-being initiatives during the year (including both Mother’s Day Classic and Movember) has reinforced the message that we don’t just see our employees as a commodity.

Combining our annual engagement survey with a range of other touch points during the year has enabled us to respond to feedback about our working environment, policies and communication.

Making our statistics available to our workforce and acknowledging our progress at International Women’s Day, Harmony Day and other events adds weight to our commitment of a diverse workforce.

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