The program — designed to support businesses to attract and retain women returning to work after a career break — was piloted in 2018 as part of the Women’s Economic Security Statement. The $2.6 million expansion was first flagged in the Women’s Budget Statement 2021–22 earlier this year.
The program will now reach an additional 60 businesses over the next three years. It provides businesses with a specialist consultant to advise around workplace or cultural changes that will improve the recruitment, retention and promotion of women, including changes to job design, rosters and shifts; reviewing recruitment programs; and changing promotional processes. The program focuses on industries that have high levels of gender segregation such as mining, construction, manufacturing and wholesale trade.
The government says the program has reached 18 businesses so far and another 12 are currently in the third year of the pilot.
“When women’s individual economic security improves, their participation in work and leadership has important flow-on benefits not just for themselves, but for their families, communities, business and the national economy,” said Stuart Robert, Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business. He said it is clear women “face real barriers, which is not acceptable”, and said the program will aim to identify and help them address these barriers.
“The data is clear: when you drop barriers for women, your business will benefit,” he said.
Minister for Women’s Economic Security, Senator Jane Hume, said that as the economy recovers from COVID-19, “it’s vitally important that we make the most of our productive resources, and that must include our female workforce which is one of the best educated in the world”.
KPMG, who is partnering with the government to deliver the program, will be facilitating a “Women at Work Forum” as part of the expanded program.
“If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that an aptitude for reinvention is one of the greatest skills that an organisation can foster,” said Kathy Hilyard, partner at KPMG.
“We are seeing from sectors like engineering that the future of talent management rests on businesses, peak bodies and communities working together to foster and nurture talent ecosystems, creating new and diverse pathways to employment.”
Businesses that have undertaken the program so far include:
• Disability employment service Encompass Community Service, which is now planning to create a pathway to entry for women seeking to become disability support workers.
• Sustainable forest grower and timber products company OneFortyOne, which wants to help combat low representation of females in the forestry and timber industry.
• PinnacleHPC, an accounting firm which wants to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce, including helping improve the experience of staff returning from maternity leave.