'White male culture' denying workplace equality

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'White male culture' denying workplace equality

Banning meetings before 8.30am and after 5.00pm is one way to redress the imbalance of men and women in the workplace, according to a leading businesswoman.

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Banning meetings before 8.30am and after 5.00pm is one way to redress the imbalance of men and women in the workplace, according to a leading businesswoman.

Dianne Grady, who sits on the board of Woolworths, Bluescope Steel and Wattyl, told the ‘Women in IR’ conference in Sydney this week that men and women remain culturally stereotyped in the Australian workplace, with the white male culture still dominating.

‘Women in IR have had to have infinite patience. Union leaders are more interested in old power hierarchies than the welfare of their workers while professional firms are hanging on to outdated workplace cultures that are unhealthy, she said.

Grady was also critical of suggestions that women had really progressed in the workplace.

‘Ten years ago around 10% of executives were women. Now it is 8.3%,’ she said. ‘Women in the workforce need to take personal responsibility pushing the issue of women’s rights and flexibility within their own organisation.’

Grady said that the theory that women leave the workplace to have children is a myth. ‘It is simply not true. The number one reason women leave the workplace is because of machoalbinofilia (white male culture),’ she said. ‘It is tough, for both men and women, to be different in that culture. Although you might try to fit in, the reality is that you never do.’

Grady believes that cultures that encourage employees to work long hours and always be contactable, are rigid in work practices and hold onto white male workplace cultures that are not sustainable. ‘Companies need to assess the real costs for accepting these long-term norms. Neither older, younger or women employees are content to continue working at this pace,’she said.

Productivity and innovation

Flexibility around work practices and encouraging a culture that recognises family commitment and embraces diversity, are the best ways to encourage productivity and innovation, said Grady.

‘Recent productivity has come from costs and consolidation, but we have reached the limit with these methods. Businesses need to focus on new ways to grow their business, and that can only be done through innovation.’

Grady suggested that companies should start tracking the progress of women when hired by the company more carefully. She recommended the use of external parties for exit interviews to encourage honesty from employees that are leaving. She also said that once the facts of the problem have been established, the issues should be translated into dollars or a cost figure.

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