True change takes time, it takes clear and consistent sharing of knowledge and ideas, and it takes bold individuals who are brave enough to put it into action.

Earlier this month, Randstad team members took time out to reflect on the significance of International Women’s Day and have some meaningful conversations around why this day is important to them. It also provided an opportunity to shine a spotlight on what’s happening within the New Zealand workforce - both the biases that still exist and those that are working to break them.

With the 2023 theme of #EmbraceEquity, it was also a timely reminder of the difference between equality and equity and what’s needed to drive genuine change.

4 persons looking up in the same direction, in a room with glass windows
4 persons looking up in the same direction, in a room with glass windows

the important distinction of equity over equality.

As shared on the IWD website, “Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities. Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.”

Another way to put this is that we all have different needs that make us able to work at the top of our game, and while equality treats everyone as the same, equity considers what we each need as individuals to work well alone and together.

IWD goes on to say that equal opportunities assume everyone started out at the same place, which is simply not the case, so equality may seem like a good idea but can, in fact, be more exclusionary than inclusive.

On the practical application of equity Brooke Nelson, General Manager - Staffing, of the Volume & Recruitment Team, says, “When it comes to equity I’ve found that job crafting can be a powerful tool. For example, when a team member asks for a specific requirement or change to the regular structure or system, such as different working hours or time off at 3pm to pick up their kids from school, it can be useful to ask, “Why not?””

She continues, “We may not even realise how we are holding back progress of our people or organisation by thinking we must continue to operate as we always have. In experimenting with different requests that have come in over the years, I’ve come to see that catering to individual needs doesn’t weaken frameworks but strengthens them, because when people feel trusted and supported they’re often happier and more productive, with employees also far more loyal and engaged.”

Brooke says conversations around equality and equity are, at the end of the day, about making our workplaces better and easier for everyone.

She says, “As a woman in leadership I feel a responsibility to make our workplaces fair for everyone. For instance, new Mums should have support as they re-enter the workforce, with flexibility a huge part of that. And while we’re talking about women, diversity of our teams and thinking strengthens our teams as a whole.”

actioning change within new zealand’s workforce.

The WEF 2022 Global Gender Gap Report revealed that New Zealand women are not only under-represented in leadership roles (33%) but also aren’t being promoted internally as frequently when compared to their male counterparts (20%). Within such a reality, it’s leaders within every  organisation that must champion change and pave a way for future female leaders. 

On her own experience, Brooke says, “Wonderful leaders in my own career provided me not only with inspiration and role modelling, but offered opportunities to step into my own potential. 

“Working at Randstad we have a great internal team, but dealing with a wide variety of people and businesses means I’ve come face to face with discrimination, biases and lack of open-mindedness over the years. It hasn’t always been easy to face these limiting beliefs. 

“One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is balancing being a mum, progressing in my career, and making time for family and friends. In the face of such challenges, I needed to find the courage to be explicit about my needs with my support network, speaking with my partner and family members, and being clear with managers and colleagues about my personal and professional goals. This has helped immensely in helping me to achieve in these different areas of my life.”

Brooke says, “At this point in my career, I’m able to apply first-hand experience and learnings to mentor and support other women, which is a wonderful outcome. I find it important to boost self-esteem and confidence in young women and help to build strong support systems and networks so we don’t have to do it alone. This can be everything from speaking openly about my journey right through to offering greater flexibility to staff.”

an image of a man presenting in front of his team in a meeting room
an image of a man presenting in front of his team in a meeting room

powerful leadership to give rise to other voices of change.

Working with a variety of industries and people has meant Elaena Martin, National Manager of the Volume & Project Recruitment team, and Sara Isbister, Principle Consultant/Account Manager - both of whom work directly with Brooke - have witnessed discrimination and discovered ways to uncover biases and champion change.

Elaena spoke about experience witnessing discrimination within different industries and the importance of actively challenging these. 

She says, “I’ve been lucky to work with many different customers in my time, and I’ve worked with many enforcement-based organisations, where females at the leadership level have been few and far between. The women who work in these industries as leaders are genuinely very inspiring.” 

Elaena continues, “I’ve had the pleasure of working with women who are very knowledgeable, confident, forthright, compassionate and generous. When women rise up, especially in male-dominated industries, they can face discrimination and undue pressure to ‘prove themselves’, and this can lead to a kind of toughness. I’ve come to see the value of being yourself, and the fact that keeping your femininity and values close while in these positions is a powerful thing.” 

Sara shared her thoughts on equity and what it takes to change biases. 

She says, “When I looked at the International Women's Day website, one of the things that stood out to me was that equal opportunities aren't enough. We need to acknowledge that people do start from different places and their journeys continue at different paces. For instance, there's ups and downs for women when it comes to childcare and this can impact careers.” 

At Randstad, the Volume & Project Recruitment team run various workshops and meetings to help organisations hire the best person for the job, and help to remove or reduce unconscious biases. 

Sara says, “One of the things we have done really well is creating an opportunity or a conversation where it's acceptable to challenge unconscious bias. It's something that we work very hard on with our clients, to create a space where that's okay. So, when it comes to hiring decisions, these aren’t based on preconceptions.” 

Both Elaena and Sara highlight the importance of continuing the conversation, and that there’s still much to be done. 

Elaena says, “Of course, there is still discrimination, and often it can be unconscious. I’ve worked hard over the years to help change mindsets and shift how we make decisions and draw attention to those unconscious biases that can unfairly influence an outcome. Being able to adjust and adapt, and still champion your values and share your skill as a leader, is very important and inspiring to me.” 

Sara says, “I've got a really good friend who was on maternity leave at the same time as me, and the company she worked for has an amazing maternity leave package. But it turns out it is amazing on paper, and in reality, the return to work was really difficult. In terms of support, we need more than just what looks good on paper. We need to be offering more support and flexibility long term, and this in turn will make our teams stronger.” 

challenging unconscious bias and advocating equity.

As we continue on this journey it’s about celebrating and acknowledging women in leadership positions, and women who are just now embarking on their career journeys. 

Brooke concludes, “While we have made some in-roads we’re not there yet, and I’m glad to be joined with other women passionate about building diversity and equity into our organisations.”

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