Diversity and Our Part to Play

March 6, 2020

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?  

This idea formed the foundation of an impassioned speech by Hannah Wandel, CEO of Country to Canberra and fierce advocate for gender equality. Hannah gave one of two speeches at an International Women’s Day Breakfast hosted by Inspire Co. A joint initiative between Icon Water, Evo Energy and ActewAGL focused on gender diverse networking and professional development opportunities across business.  

Hannah used her time to discuss the stifling impact societal conventions can have on the confidence of young women. These conventions include ideas surrounding expectations of roles as homemakers, restricted career paths and society’s treatment of its female leaders.  

These arguments culminated in a startling claim. The confidence women have in themselves erodes as they grow. 56 per cent of young women felt confident in themselves at age 10, while only 27 per cent felt the same as they entered adulthood. This lack of self-confidence serves as a barrier between young women and the opportunities of meaningful employment.  

The purpose of International Women’s Day is to encourage society to take that next step towards equality. It’s not about raising one gender above another but rather making sure all people are treated fairly. An individual’s gender, race, religion or sexuality should never become a barrier to their success and happiness. Hannah reminded those in attendance that social change is only possible through our combined efforts, and that every step is another opportunity to make a meaningful difference.  

Many of these views were mirrored by Icon Water’s Chair, Wendy Caird, who spoke before Hannah. Wendy used the event as a call to action. She argued that small acts of discrimination occur every day throughout public spaces, the workplace and within the home, often facilitated through the power of language. The truly saddening thing, Wendy argued, was that many people simply ignored these opportunities to call out discrimination, with most feeling ‘it isn’t their place to act’ or simply being unwilling to ‘rock the boat’. 

As Wendy eloquently put it 

“The behaviour we walk past is the behaviour we condone”. 

Wendy pointed out that companies that embrace a diverse workforce outperform their competitors. Icon Water is working hard to accomplish this, with women comprising 63 per cent of our Board, 50 per cent of our Executive and 32 per cent of our leadership team.  

Wendy shared her firm belief that flexible workplaces are inclusive. Inclusivity is respecting alternate lifestyles instead of simply valuing what you’re familiar with. For this reason, flexible working arrangements are considered for every role at Icon Water, as well as superannuation contributions for paid maternity, paternity and adoption leave. Though this isn’t mandated by law, Icon Water acknowledges the disparities that occur between men and women at retirement. It is a disparity the business has committed to eliminating.  

The diminishing confidence of young women is a serious impediment to diversity in the workplace. It serves to dissuade these women from pursuing their passions. Icon Water’s education team works to engage with local high schools, aiming to boost the confidence of young women and encourage them to enter Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields. We also aim for a 50:50 gender split for all graduates we employ.  

These initiatives contribute to Icon Water’s commitment to being an equal opportunity employer. We refuse to allow stereotypes, discrimination or inflexibility restrict the opportunities of our workforce.  

Throughout the Inspire Co event both speakers were emphatic about the need for change. Our mindset and behaviour, has far reaching consequences beyond our own experiences, and can make a major difference to the lives and opportunities of young women and our colleagues. We need to be capable of embracing change within our communities, workplaces and ourselves to ensure a fair and fulfilling life for all Australians.