Diversity should be reflected in a company's employees

If you have diversity in your company you draw from a greater pool of talent says Jacobs SVP and GM Patrick Hill.
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If you have diversity in your company you draw from a greater pool of talent says Jacobs SVP and GM Patrick Hill.

Patrick Hill is a Male Champion of Change, one of 130 corporate leaders nationally advocating for gender diversity in their workplaces. Hill is Senior Vice President & General Manager for Buildings & Infrastructure in the Asia Pacific region at Jacobs.

In Australia, Jacobs has a recognised diversity track record, receiving an Employer of Choice for Gender Equality citation from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and ranking ninth overall in the Australian Financial Review’s Top 100 Graduate Employers - and the top engineering firm.

Why should companies improve their diversity?

Ultimately, the work we do should reflect the community we live in, which is gender diverse and has different cultures, ages and experiences, sexualities and abilities all living together. People are the heart of every business and this diversity should be reflected in a company’s employees. If you have diversity in your company you draw from a greater pool of talent, learning from their experiences to provide better service to your clients.

What are companies already doing to diversify their workplaces?

In the last few years, there have been some positive initiatives; top-down approaches, such as setting gender targets on boards and this is gradually moving into executive leadership roles. Many companies are also developing specific strategies and practices that target gender inequality including unconscious bias awareness education, and promoting flexible working for both women and men.

What steps do you suggest a company beginning this journey towards diversity could take?

At Jacobs in Australia and New Zealand, we have had some step changes. We started with a staff survey focussed on diversity and inclusion. We asked our employees what their priorities were.

We discovered six areas we wanted to improve on: gender equity, flexibility, age or life stage, indigenous and cultural background, LGBT+ and those living with a disability. We’ve set up six area-wide networks, and so far we’ve done the most work in improving our gender equality and flexibility.

Changing flexibility is really just changing a mindset. We’ve shifted the “burden of proof” back to our line managers and ask them ‘why not?’ We’ve revised their toolkits so that flexibility decision making applies equally to both men and women.

Some of our graduates want to take a day off a week for volunteer work, young mothers and fathers need to spend time with their children, while our senior practitioners - we are blessed to have them mentor our younger workers - have other things they want to do later in their lives. We don’t discriminate against different life stages.

As far as greater gender balance, we’ve set inclusive leadership targets. We are developing a more diverse leadership bench through a senior mentoring program. We’re also continuing to analyse gender pay equity annually.

From the bottom up, we’re trying to access more diverse talent; we’ve held unconscious bias workshops for line managers, and also have an employee referral bonus; if an employee refers someone who we successfully hire they get a bonus. If they refer a woman who gets hired they get a double bonus.

What’s it like being a Male Champion of Change?

Elizabeth Broderick (Former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner) established the Champions of Change networks. I work with a great group of peer CEOs and executives in our sector with genuine commitment to delivering meaningful change and willingness to share best practice.

We see our role as standing beside female leaders, and sponsoring them for success. We would all acknowledge that we have a long way to go, however I think our technical professional services sector has made strong progress over the past few years.

It’s about accelerating women leaders’ positive impact and lifting their profiles. It’s making us (the men) more accountable. We become advocates for change too. Of course, it hasn’t been without its moments of discomfort, like any transformational experience.