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Gender equity

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NSW Government Senior Leader's Insights video

Women in Leadership

We want everyone that’s part of our workforce to have an equal opportunity in making a meaningful contribution to their State and community – no matter what their gender.

That means working to break down the barriers that prevent women from progressing to senior leadership, such as reducing unconscious bias, raising awareness, and mainstreaming flexible working.

How we’re doing

Although the NSW public sector is faring better than many organisations, we need to do more to achieve greater leadership balance.

Currently, women make up 65.1% of the NSW public sector workforce, but only 38.7% of senior leadership roles. Our data tells us that women’s career trajectories start to decline at early management levels yet men continue to progress steadily into senior executive roles. This is a trend we are working to address.

There are also several initiatives in place to support women in leadership in our workplace.

In collaboration with the Women and Work Research Group (WWRG) at University of Sydney Business School, we produced a report entitled Advancing Women: Increasing the participation of women in senior roles in the NSW public sector .

The report analyses the current position of women in the NSW public sector. It explores the barriers and enablers to women in acquiring leadership roles, and provides evidence to support short and long-term recommendations for change.

The report has been endorsed by the heads of departments and agencies in the NSW public sector and a formal response issued committing to action.

The report was based on literature reviews, leading practice, and workforce data analysis, as well as interviews and focus groups with human resource practitioners and senior leaders.

Mainstreaming flexible work is important for all our employees. While it will encourage more women back into the workforce, it will also encourage men to work flexibly in a way that helps their families, assist older workers in transitioning to retirement and give our younger employees the flexibility to work when and how they choose.. We also know this is a key enabler for supporting women progress into into senior leadership roles.

We need to break down the stereotype that flexible work is only for mothers with children. We need both men and women to role model flexible work for a range of reasons.

To support the progression of women into senior leadership roles, 50% of places in the Leadership Academy programs have been designated for women. This percentage is, however, being exceeded with women making up 61% of people accepted for the programs.

The NSW Leadership Academy promotes excellence in the NSW public sector by enhancing the skills and capabilities of existing and emerging leaders through a unique suite of development programs.

  • The 2016 Premier’s Awards has twelve categories to showcase achievements and progress towards the NSW Premier’s priorities.  One of the categories is Driving Public Sector Diversity, which recognises initiatives and improvements that contribute to increasing the proportion of women in senior leadership roles.
  • An event was held on 25 February 2016, with executives from across the NSW public sector, on the Premier’s Priority to Drive Diversity in the NSW Public Sector. The event featured presentations from Lieutenant General David Morrison AO (Retd), Lisa Annese, CEO Diversity Council of Australia, and Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner. Here is a video highlights package of their speeches and the panel session.
  • On 21 October 2016 the PSC hosted an Executive Connections event - NSW Women in Leadership Symposium at Parliament House. 198 women attended this event which was targeted at female public sector executives and provided an opportunity to hear about the Premier’s Priority for driving public sector diversity. Speakers included the Hon Jillian Skinner MP; Annabel Crabb; Helen Silver, Chief General Manager of the Worker’s Compensation Division at Allianz Australia; and Blair Comley and Renee Leon from the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet.

By showcasing engaging and compelling stories about women across the NSW public sector, Breaking Through challenges our unconscious biases about women’s traditional roles in the workforce.

The publication profiles 20 inspirational women at different stages of their careers who are working in occupations generally seen as a ‘man’s job’, and unconventional for women.

Their stories challenge preconceptions and demonstrate that flexible work and supportive workplace cultures are crucial in supporting and enabling women to reach their full potential and progress in their careers. They also motivate and inspire women to break through barriers to occupations that are seen to be traditionally male.

In 2017/18 the PSC partnered with a consortium of university researchers examining the Role of Middle Managers in progressing gender equity in the public sectors of NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania. 

Drawing on the experiences and knowledge of almost 300 managers in four public sector jurisdictions, the reseachers looked at the role middle managers play in operationalising gender equity-focused policies

The researchers found that the public sector is deeply committed to progressing gender equity and has driven positive initiatives to implement gender-inclusive practice.  The research report identifies a range of innovative solutions being undertaken, including embedding gender supportive processes in the immediate workplace and across wider human resource processes.

The research report and accompanying practice guide provides suggested actions to drive best practice on significant issues such as flexible working, recruitment, career development and mobility.

The findings and recommendations are available in:

Middle Managers’ Role in Progressing Gender Equity: A leading practice guide

A leading practice guide provides for middle managers with suggested actions to drive gender equity best practice on significant issues such as flexible working, recruitment, career development and mobility.

Five ways to encourage gender equity in the workplace

UNSW Canberra Senior Lecturer Dr Sue WIlliamson describes the five qualities of middle managers progressing gender equity in the workplace.