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Gender equality in the workplace: why balance in business creates more opportunities for everyone

BlueRock reflects on the achievements of the women in our community and explains why gender equality makes business better

Celebrating our PinkRockers for International Women’s Day

Last month at BlueRock we celebrated International Women’s Day. In honour of the day, we’ve been reflecting on the accomplishments of the women in our community, from our network of women-led businesses and female entrepreneurs to the talented and driven women who make up our team of PinkRockers.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day was Balance for Better. The sentiment behind the theme is simple: by creating a gender-balanced world where women have access to the same opportunities as their male counterparts, we can build a better world for everyone.

With this in mind, we asked a few of our PinkRockers – staff members Lisa and Steph and client JAK Organics – for their take on why balance creates a better world.

Lisa Marshall

Lisa Marshall started her career as a graduate accountant at Grant Thornton. After working her way up to a management position, Lisa (and a young Peter Lalor) took the plunge and set up BlueRock Solutions, a service designed to bridge the gap between bookkeeper and tax agent. The business soon merged with BlueRock Accounting, the division that Lisa now heads up as Director.

Lisa says the biggest challenge of her career has been finding a balance between her work and home life (Lisa has two young kids at home) but that BlueRock has provided a huge amount of support, understanding and flexibility to help her achieve the right balance for her and her family. After returning from maternity leave, Lisa now works two days per week, but this hasn’t stopped her from taking on a role as a Chairperson to the BlueRock board.

Lisa’s advice to women in business? Have confidence in yourself – having kids at home doesn’t mean you can’t do it all.

“Men and women complement each other. Business would suffer without that female view.”

Steph Todio

It took just seven years for Steph Todio to progress from Graduate Accountant to BlueRock Director. At 33, she now runs her own team and client list, and thinks that having women in senior leadership positions has helped BlueRock create a more diverse and balanced community of clients.

Steph credits her success to always having the opportunity to work closely with BlueRock’s Managing Director, even as a graduate, and says the support she’s received means she’s never felt inequality in the workplace.

Her advice for young women starting out in their careers?

“Surround yourself with people who believe in a gender-balanced workplace. Don’t let the gender-balance topic cloud your confidence - being a woman isn’t a disadvantage.”

It was also these close and trusting relationships that helped Steph return to work after having her son, Eli. By working closely and communicating with BlueRock early, Steph was able to establish the right balance for her and her family. Steph now works four days a week to provide for her family.

“It’s okay if you don’t want to be a stay-at-home parent. It’s okay to want to work after having children.”

JAK Organics

Founded by three sisters – Jemma, Alysha and Karissa (JAK), JAK Organics is a natural skincare company that provides a “better, safer and more eco-friendly alternative” to chemical-laden personal care products.

From humble beginnings concocting recipes in the kitchen, the JAK women have gone from strength to strength as they’ve grown the JAK brand. But as new mothers starting a business, the founders had to learn how to balance growing their business with growing happy and healthy families.

“While sometimes chaotic, our experience in doing this has proven time and time again, just how resilient we can be as women. We’re proud of being able to bring life to little humans as well as little businesses!”

The JAK women have found that finding the balance between work and family can be challenging, especially when it comes to finding time for themselves.

“The biggest challenge is setting aside the mummy guilts and the business guilts as you try to divide yourself physically and mentally. Constantly being ‘on’ can be draining.”

But it’s the excitement and satisfaction of solving problems and making a difference in people’s lives that keeps the JAK women focused on their business goals. Their advice for other women entrepreneurs and business owners? “Keep going - the best is yet to come.”

Why is balance important?

Women make up 50.7% of Australia’s population. If Australia excludes more than half the population from opportunities that could drive its economy and community forward, who is actually losing out?

Think of the contribution that some of the world’s top female entrepreneurs have made to their communities. Like Biocon founder, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, who built India’s leading biotechnology enterprise. The business is deeply committed to research and innovation in order to create sustainable and affordable treatment models for chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer.

Or Bakers Delight’s Lesley Gillespie, who grew her business from one bakery to a global network of more than 700 stores, generating an estimated $595 million a year for Australia’s economy.

Diverse voices result in diverse ideas. Empowering women to participate equally in the boardroom, workplace, government or sporting field means everyone can tap into their unleashed potential. In short: balanced communities flourish.

What is BlueRock doing to drive a gender-balanced world?

At BlueRock, we recognise that businesses play a huge role in driving a gender-balanced world.

In Australia, one in two women report having experienced workplace discrimination as a result of pregnancy, parental leave or on return to work after having a child. When workplaces are not set up to be inclusive, fair or supportive to women, women are unable to access opportunities or progress their careers. This is just one factor leading to the gender pay gap – in Australia the average wage for women is 15.3% less than men. That’s 85 cents to the dollar.

BlueRock is committed to creating an inclusive and gender-balanced workplace that supports women. We actively promote policies to build an environment where everyone is free from discrimination and able to access opportunities. These policies include:

  • Comprehensive anti-bullying, discrimination and harassment policies and complaint handling procedures to ensure everyone is treated with respect, dignity and fairness.
  • Flexible working arrangement policies to support women in balancing work and carer responsibilities. Flexible work options include permanent, part-time work, graduated return to work after parental leave (returning part time then building up to full-time work), flexible start and finish times to accommodate childcare and school requirements, job share arrangements, and working from home.
  • Parental leave policies that enable employees to take paid parental leave, as well as additional unpaid parental leave before, during and after giving birth or adopting a child. Pregnant employees may also take special maternity leave if they experience pregnancy-related illnesses. While on leave, parents may choose to participate in ‘Keeping in Touch Days’, in which employees can participate in training, conferences and work planning sessions to stay up to date with BlueRock, refresh their skills and prepare for their return to work.
  • Breastfeeding policies to support mothers on their return to work. This policy ensures mothers have the flexibility and space to breastfeed or express. This includes lactation breaks as required, flexible working arrangements and providing access to facilities suitable for breastfeeding or expressing milk.
  • BlueRock-funded childcare support enabling employees to access an allowance for childcare on return to work.

Outside of the formal policies and procedures for working parents, BlueRock is committed to creating and maintaining an inclusive and family-friendly workplace. That’s why we provide ad hoc babysitting in the office for staff that need to come in to work but are unable to organise childcare.

During school holidays, staff are welcome to bring children to work, with plenty of breakout spaces (and toys!) for kids to run around in. Outside of work, BlueRock hosts a number of family-friendly social events, such as the Yarra Valley Polo, to acknowledge that families play an important role in the well-being of our employees.

Keen to find out more about life at BlueRock? Head this way.

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BlueRock is a certified B Corp business.
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