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Despite 84% of Australian firms saying they are focused on improving D&I, only half actually have a multi-year strategy or set targets for pay equity, according to a study released Monday.
Only two in five companies have dedicated staff to address diversity and inclusion, Mercer said in its When Women Thrive 2020 Australia Report. And while 88% say they want to create flexible work environments, only a third ask staff about any commitments they may have as caregivers, or other obligations.
“D&I is not considered an integral or a vital part of the business strategy,” said Katelijne Pee, talent and capability leader at Mercer and author of the report, which surveyed 50 firms that employ 263,000 workers.
Just 26% of Australian executives set formal quantitative goals for D&I outcomes, marginally better than 25% of North American peers, but trailing the global average of 32%.
Women made up 42% of employees, yet only about a third of management roles overseeing a business unit’s profit and loss were held by them, the report found. Without change, representation levels could linger at 47% as far into the future as 2030.
More to lose
While women now hold on average 30% of board positions at Australia’s biggest firms, they remain underrepresented in the workforce, said Pee.
“It is considered strategic when we are only looking at the D of D&I, looking at the diversity piece. It’s a quota that organizations are trying to achieve. But where we are seeing still organizations in Australia lagging behind is on the inclusion piece because that talks to the employee experience,” she said.
Australian firms are under increasing pressure to improve their D&I as long-term investors from endowments to pension funds use the metric to assess company culture and governance standards. Recent scandals, including at AMP Ltd. have done little to buoy confidence in firms ability to create and maintain strong diversity and inclusion structures.
A lack of accountability “has negative impact on how women can advance in an organization and how attractive that organization is, especially to females at the most senior levels,” Pee said.
“It is now time to embed D&I strategies as part of your business strategy rather than seeing it as something that you focus on if and when you have the time,” she said.