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Opinion: How Australian businesses are increasing gender diversity

With the workforce comprising five generations – from baby boomers to generation Z – and as we sprint towards millennials representing 50% of the workplace by 2020, there is an undeniable need for businesses to adapt and evolve their approach to communication in order to support gender diversity. Underpinning this need is the fact that 86% of female Gen Yers believe an employer’s record on gender diversity is a make-or-break factor. There is no doubt that gender equality needs to be a primary focus for businesses. As employees increasingly seek out workplaces with strong commitments to diversity and inclusion, more and more employers are seeking out new ways to help meet and exceed those expectations. Consequently, high performing organisations are looking at a range of tactics, including how communication technologies can help support flexible workplace practices that should be the backbone of any company’s approach to diversity and inclusion.

At Facebook, we know our employees can make better decisions and build better products for the communities that use our services with having a diverse representation among our employees. We’ve learned that recruiting, retaining and developing a diverse, inclusive workforce needs to be a priority from day one. The later you start taking deliberate action to increase diversity, the harder it becomes.

Gender diversity in the workforce is not simply about equal representation of men and women. Giving everyone a voice, providing psychological safety and community are foundational. It’s also about inclusion and whether women within the business can equally participate, are involved in decision making processes, and are employed in positions to influence outcomes. Providing a flexible work environment with support of a communication and collaboration technology platform help in creating the environment for supporting gender equality at work

For many women, particularly those with young families, a barrier to equality in the workforce are rigid working hours. By implementing a means by which employees can collaborate online, such as Workplace by Facebook (Workplace), employers are providing the ultimate foundation to help support flexible working. When working on adjustable schedules, technology is an integral means for people to stay connected, participate and remain collaborative, even when working remotely. Such technology should allow for a searchable archive of information that is accessible 24 hours a day.

For women and men on a flexible workplace arrangement it is critical that their organisation carefully considers how they can extend office culture to the online space so all are given the same opportunity to participate and contribute. Collaboration platforms provide the foundation for that online culture that supports synchronous and asynchronous communication through tools such as groups, chat and live streaming. In addition, for women working remotely, the value of video conferencing for one-on-one check ins or virtual brainstorms can be invaluable for their sense of purpose, belonging and ultimately career progression.

Intrinsically, collaboration technologies provide a place where all members, irrespective of position, can communicate and access information simultaneously. Workplace by Facebook enables two-way conversations with an ability to translate across multiple languages and democratises employee culture, giving everyone a voice, from the CEO to the newest intern, and for desk-bound and mobile workers alike.

Workplace by Facebook allows organisations to reach people wherever they are, so employees can stay connected to the people and information they need to do their job. It connects colleagues across time zones, languages and geographies, allowing employees to collaborate and build important relationships with colleagues in ways that otherwise aren’t possible, and at a time that works for them. It has no unconscious bias. Companies want to empower their people to participate and communicate, and levelling the playing field is one of the best ways to support that.

With flexible working being a key component to gender equity in the workplace, collaboration technologies such as Workplace by Facebook play a strategic role to get you started on that journey.

As we work to progress our own diversity and inclusion goals, it is apparent that when people feel included, they feel a sense of belonging and are more likely to go the extra mile. Perhaps more importantly though is that flexible working arrangements should not mean having to forego the cultural perks that come with a physical working space and organisations should always be working towards bridging the disconnect between physical and virtual, striving for a consistent culture where no one gets left behind.

We’ve rolled out Workplace to more than 30,000 organisations worldwide, providing access to more than 2 million users in just over 2 years. We’ve witnessed firsthand how the platform transforms company culture, opens new doors for collaboration, and gives a voice to everyone equally. Any business serious about gender diversity and inclusion should carefully consider what communication technologies can best support their culture.

Article written by Monica Adractas, Global director at Workplace by Facebook.

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