We are thrilled to announce that we have partnered with The Uncommon Project to further drive the equality agenda in Australia.
In this inteview with Jenny, we discuss the burning topic of workplace equality and diversity, including the three pieces of advice for companies looking to improve their equality and culture.
Equality Check: Tell us a little about your background...
Jenny: I am originally from Sweden but I have studied and worked in Norway, the US, and Australia in both corporate and creative fields. After completing a leadership program, I discovered that my passion lay in purpose-driven change. Given that my background is quite diverse, I wanted to merge my experiences in how those countries and industries are dealing with equality and inclusion. I founded The Uncommon Project, which is the company that is bringing Equality Check to Australia and we are working towards making change happen quicker by empowering both organizations and the individual.
Why did you want to take Equality Check to Australia?
There was a natural alignment between The Uncommon Project and Equality Check as we share the same values. Equality Check is an organization that approaches the issues from several essential angles, and they are unique in creating transparency both within an organization and also across society. The founders are passionately driven and are determined to tackle equality issues in new, contemporary ways and not to rely on what we've tried before. The product is constantly evolving, and they incorporate the newest research and collaborate with top-performing companies. This is a product that I am proud to share with the Australian market as it is exactly what is desired and needed to progress the diversity agenda. It will allow Australian companies to benchmark themselves up against the best in the world and in turn become a great example of positive change.
Australians have traditionally been great technology adopters; they have a unique pioneering spirit that embraces emerging ideas and solutions. Through the Equality Check platform, I genuinely believe Australians can kickstart their change towards more diverse and transparent workplaces.
What has the response been like as you have introduced Equality Check in Australia?
What has been interesting to see is that in many countries, including here in Australia, some corporations are ahead of the government on equality initiatives, and many businesses are really leading by example. In Australia, these organizational initiatives will help to push government and legislation to catch up. Many companies here want to do greater good; they want help to get this right, so they are very positive about identifying contemporary ways to tackle the issues. So far the response from Australia is positive as they get presented with an evidence-based tool that will help speed the process up in a sustainable way.
What do you identify as the biggest challenges we need to overcome in terms of better equality and less unconscious bias in the workplace?
It is vital that organizations create cultures where every employee feels heard, seen and valued. Diversity alone will not lead to equality. Leveraging diversity through inclusiveness will lead to equality. A classic pitfall is that you recruit a diverse group of people but expect them to all assimilate into the same behavioral pattern. Waiting for government or public biased stereotypes to disappear has proven to take time, so by empowering organizations, leaders and the individual, we can change behaviors more quickly. When we change behavior, we will automatically change mindsets and that, in turn, will help remove stereotyping and unconscious bias.
From a company perspective, why do you believe it’s important for companies to use Equality Check?
What can they learn? People expect greater transparency in the workplace on issues such as diversity and equality, and this is exactly what a company gets an insight into by signing up for the platform. The Uncommon Project offers Equality Check to Australian businesses to help them understand exactly what to measure, how to measure it, and how to improve in the areas where they are not performing well when it comes to equality. Together we help organizations get their cause and effect right. By collecting data and implementing transparency, we will get answers on exactly where change is needed.
It is similar to when you have a medical issue. If they misdiagnose you, the medicine won`t help. So it's important to get the right diagnosis. We help companies get their cause and effect right.
Why do you encourage all Australians to leave a review on Equality Check?
We need transparency on equality and inclusion to be able to improve and Equality Check will provide that. Organizations get to see themselves as their employees see them and from there, they can take action. It will also empower employees as they can search on companies and find out what the work environment is like before they apply for a job and can choose an employer that aligns with their personal values. Equality Check is a platform that will strengthen the voice of the individual and drive positive change.
What are your ambitions for Equality Check in Australia?
Put simply, it is to empower both organizations and the individual. We are all hoping for the system to change, but we can´t wait for it to change, because ´we are the system´ We all have to take action now and with the mindset that it doesn’t need to follow the same slow-paced development we have seen in the past. Change does not have to take a long time.
I would like to see more transparency in organizations, it will enable us to come together to collaborate to finally bridge the gap. An inclusive culture where we are objective – that is we only look at people’s skills, experience, and potential. In the workplace, it is crucial that we eliminate unconscious bias through behavioral design to enable progress. I´m also excited by the reach of Australia. Whilst Australia is my primary focus, its strong links and trading partnerships with Asia and in particular China offer a huge incentive. The opportunity to drive sustainable change across Australia, which in turn, will influence large geopolitical and economic countries such as China and Japan is a driving force behind my ambitions. Australia can have a big impact on equality and provide opportunities to make a significant visible change.
What are your top 3 pieces of advice to companies looking to improve their culture and equality?
Start by implementing KPIs for equality. Hold boards, executives, and managers accountable for key gender balance KPIs in the same way that they are held accountable for result-oriented KPIs. Traditionally, measures addressing work/life balance have been targeted towards women. However, the companies that have succeeded with improving gender balance have implemented actions that benefit all employees, not only women. Some men may feel discriminated against and might disapprove of the course of action. In addition, some women might distance themselves from measures aimed at supporting them because they believe it sends the signal that they need additional support. The reality is, when initiatives relating to work/life balance are aimed specifically at women, they contribute to cementing the belief that the family & home is a woman’s primary responsibility and that`s when it backfires.
Remember the concept of a critical mass of 30% whenever you assemble teams. The chance of noticing the effect of diversity is larger if the critical mass is above 30%. It is fundamental that top management is engaged and communicates its strategy for and its commitment to achieving gender balance throughout the company. 78% of top leaders claim that gender equality is of high priority in their business. However, only 10% of its employees believe their company prioritizes the issue.
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