Creating a positive working environment for women in some workplaces may actually be detrimental to retaining high-quality male employees, a study has found.
The Workplace Gender and Equality Strategy, funded by the federal Employment Department and carried out by the Centre for Workplace Leadership, has concluded some organisations think it’s just about making work female-friendly.
In the majority of occupations this may create a positive environment, its final report recently released said.
However, that was a simplistic approach that can cause problems in male-dominated industries such as science, mining and engineering.
“This focus on creating a positive environment for women may result in a failure to attract and retain high-quality male employees,” the report said.
Therefore equality needs to be viewed more broadly as creating a work environment for both men and women.
The centre worked with 10 organisations, including The Myer Family Company, the Sydney office of the Asia Development Bank and The Hospitality Group, on their existing gender equality policies.
All demonstrated a basic understanding of the importance of gender equality to their work, but most hadn’t linked their strategies to their core business activities, it said.
Others focused on measuring their gender representation overall and at managerial levels, but don’t look at other areas such as implementing flexible work practices.
Group vice-president of Jacobs Group (Australia) Michael Shirley said his company’s involvement in the study was a valuable exercise enabling it to assess its progress.
“This project came at an opportune time, helping us to think more about what an inclusive culture entails to unlock the potential of all our employees, male and female,” said Myer Family Company’s human resources director Clare Bird.
The minister assisting the prime minister for women Michaelia Cash, who released the report, said promoting gender equality in the workplace had clear economic benefits.