Paving the way to equity

Diversity blog pic

Countries with higher levels of gender equality have higher economic growth. Companies with more women on their boards have higher returns. Peace agreements that include women are more successful. Parliaments with more women take up a wider range of issues – including health, education, anti-discrimination, and child support.  – Ban Ki-moon

When I started as Director General of the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads, women represented 15 percent of the senior leadership team (Senior Executive Service and Senior Officer levels).

This made no sense to me. Our junior ranks were filled with talented women every bit as capable as their male counterparts, and yet they were not progressing through the ranks in the same way.

What was going on? Was it us, or them? And what could we do better to attract, retain and promote women?

It was a question I was determined to get to the bottom of, and address, in order to have a department which was performing at its very best.

So when I started my role as Director-General TMR in 2013, I knew I felt I had a real opportunity to make a difference. In early 2014, I set my department the target of having 33 percent of  senior management roles filled by women by 2018.

One of the activities we undertook was a Diversity Innovation Challenge in July 2015 . More than 100 TMR staff and external participants identified issues and brainstormed initiatives to address them, guided by keynote speakers and facilitators.

Initiatives put forward on the day were refined for inclusion in TMR’s Diversity and inclusion action plan, which is governed by the Diversity Council, which I chair.

The TMR Diversity Council was established to lead the agenda and ensure the initiatives were actioned. The council is made up of our Executive Leadership Team as well as members of the private sector including AECOM and Aurizon.

The partnership with other industry organisations has allowed us to influence the infrastructure industry in becoming more diverse and inclusive as well as deliver better outcomes for our customers.

These include proactively offering women acting opportunities to encourage them to apply for senior vacancies when they become available, and looking at the language used in our recruitment process to ensure it does not discourage women from applying.

While we have a long way to go to achieve true equity, the focus on increasing women in to leadership roles is paying off. . We have moved from 15 percent in 2012 to 27 percent of women currently in our Senior Leadership team.

This is an encouraging sign, and even more encouraging is the feedback we are getting from women in the earlier stages of their career. I received this from a graduate following the TMR Diversity Lecture, which was presented by General David Morrison:

When I told family and friends that I had been accepted into the TMR graduate program, I was met with a lot of warnings that it was a male dominated department and that I should be careful. However, in the three months I have been at TMR I am pleased to say how wrong they are. It is with the help of these initiatives (diversity and inclusion, women in leadership and the strong stance taken by TMR against domestic violence) that I feel comfortable in this work environment and am proud to be working in this department.

Neil Scales OBE

Director General

Transport and Main Roads