Learning Forums

Connect And Learn

Academy members regularly come together for Learning Forums to share challenges and workshop solutions. Learning Forums are conducted via Zoom and hosted by Dr Katie Spearritt of Diversity Partners.

A colourful business meeting room with two large lamps

In Learning Forums we: 

  • Share current challenges that may be inhibiting D&I progress in your organisation
  • Workshop solutions to strengthen D&I initiatives based on what’s been implemented successfully in other organisations and global research 
  • Learn from leading D&I professionals in an intimate setting and build your network of contacts in the industry


Learning Forum: November 2019

In this Learning Forum we discussed the new Gender Equality scorecard that is released by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. Our Future Women Editor-at-Large Jamila Rizvi summarised the findings:

  • The gender pay gap has fallen to 20.8 percent, down 0.5 percentage points from last year. This leaves men, on average, earning $25,679 a year more than women.
  • Almost fifty percent of employers now offer paid parental leave, and around 44 percent offer secondary carer’s leave. These figures are, however, growing at glacial pace.
  • Men keep getting left behind with family policies focusing on women. Only 2.3 percent of companies set targets for men’s engagement with flexible work. We’ll never see real change for women at work, until men are supported to step up at home.
  • 74 percent of major employers have a gender equality strategy, yet only a third set actual KPIs for their managers.
  • Gender balance stalls at the top. A mere 17 percent of CEOs are women and board representation sits at around 27 percent.

To keep you motivated to strengthen your D&I efforts in the light of these results, we recommend an article on the Academy about the ten actions that drive change for gender equality in organisations. These are based on findings by the Business Council of Australia, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and McKinsey & Company. In 2017, they published findings of their analysis of the last three years of workplace gender reporting data and conducted over 40 interviews in companies with a higher than average representation of women in leadership roles.

During the learning forum, we heard several positive stories from Academy members about ways they’re progressing diversity and inclusion, including:

  • Improved parental leave offerings
  • Evolution of D&I council from senior leadership members (who commissioned external research and developed a three-year strategy for the organisation as it was starting out on renewed D&I efforts) to a broader council with employee representatives (for the implementation phase)
  • Strategy workshops with the CEO and senior leaders in one organisation – previously D&I has been run by an employee-led body focused on events (with limited impact on changing systems and policies)
  • Board member ‘fireside chats’ to engage employees on the importance of diversity
  • Lean-in circles to build internal networks for women

We highlighted the importance of evolving your D&I efforts over time from strategic design and senior leadership accountability to engaging a broader base of employees.

We also discussed some initiatives to achieve a more culturally diverse leadership, referring to research on the bamboo ceiling in Australia. For those wanting to know more, here’s a recent article from Gareth Evans from his welcoming address to the Asian-Australian Leadership Summit in September who wrote: ‘The “bamboo ceiling” in Australia is real. Asian-Australians now comprise up 12 per cent of our total population but hold only around 3 per cent of senior leadership positions in our public institutions and ASX 200 companies.’

We also recommend this excellent piece from SBS that talks about the importance of culturally diverse role-models and setting targets.

Image Credit: Santi Nunez / Stocksy

Learning Forum: October 2019

In this Learning Forum we discussed how leading companies are working hard to strengthen leadership and accountability for diversity and inclusion outcomes by implementing robust governance and reporting framework. Many companies have either established or are establishing Diversity councils with senior leaders. Some also invite employee representatives from different business units to participate on the council. 

Future Women Academy members can read more about the basics of setting up D&I councils via the Academy platform here.

The terms of reference for most Diversity Councils typically include the following:

  • Drive diversity strategy and align with people and business strategies
  • Signal diversity is a business issue with visible leadership commitment
  • Oversee diversity activity and investment, and monitor progress
  • Review, debate, agree and adjust strategic direction
  • Align diversity effort across businesses groups and functions – tailoring to different challenges and opportunities
  • Advise the executive team on diversity issues, progress and action plans


The role of senior leaders from each major business area/function typically includes:

  • Represent their business area position on diversity and inclusion
  • Provide ideas and solutions to progress diversity and inclusion for the whole organisation
  • Provide updates to the Council on diversity and inclusion progress within own business area
  • Take agreed initiatives back to own business area and drive their implementation
  • Communicate overall diversity picture within own business area
  • Be a diversity champion within own business area and a sponsor for specific diversity initiatives and projects


We suggest criteria for selection of business representatives might include some or all of the following:

  • Can articulate own business area strategy, plans, needs and priorities
  • Direct report nominated by an executive team member/head of business area
  • Respected, credible and capable of effecting change within own business area
  • Empowered by the head of business area to commit to common approaches and joint initiatives agreed at the Council
  • Familiar with diversity activity and progress within own business area
  • Willing participant with an interest in/motivation for diversity who recognises the business case
  • Strategic perspective, collaborative mindset

In addition to these individual criteria, the overall composition of the participant group is important to consider. Diversity of background (and thinking) within the Council will help optimise outcomes, and role-model best practice.

Learning Forum: August 2019

In this Learning Forum we covered a range of topics including flexible work, creating D&I surveys and Pride Networks.

Key discussion and resources included:

  • The value of conducting a D&I survey to both understand employee perceptions of their sense of inclusion and belonging, and conduct a demographic census to invite employees to identify their cultural background, carer responsibilities, if they identify as a member of the LGBTI community, if they identify as having a disability, etc. Several members have recently conducted D&I surveys and are happy to share with other member organisations. You can also find sample questions and guidance on communications in this article on the FW Academy.
  • The challenges of implementing flexible work arrangements in different operational environments. A member shared information about their 4-elements approach (flexibility of hours, place, leave, everyday flex). Our toolkit on making flexibility work will also be helpful if you are reviewing your flexible work policies.
  • The growth of Pride Networks is occurring inside a number of companies. ‘Wear it Purple’ Day next Friday (August 30) is a symbolic way for companies to show their support for the LGBTIQ community.
  • There is a growing focus on supporting fathers to take parental leave and work flexibly as highlighted in a recent report on the Gender Pay Gap. This report highlights the importance of sharing home and family responsibilities and that while the gender pay gap has decreased, gender discrimination (i.e. unconscious bias) has increased as a contributing factor (between 2014 and 2017). Dr Katie Spearritt spoke on ABC Radio Melbourne about unconscious bias as part of the media coverage of the report.

Image Credit: M_a_y_a / Getty Images

Learning Forum: July 2019

In this Learning Forum we covered a range of topics including the conceptual framework, neuro-diversity and broader disability programs and flexible work.

Key discussion and resources included:

  • Elevate your D&I efforts from a programmatic focus on singular areas (e.g. gender, LGBTI, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees) to a broader focus on inclusion and belonging. The diversity and inclusion framework available on the FW Academy includes eight key areas to assess your progress. The Global Head of D&I at Atlassian, Aubrey Blanche, advocates in an episode of the Future Women Leadership Podcast that the word ‘diversity’ is inhibiting progress because in the US it’s associated with two groups (white women, black Americans) more than others. She recommends using the language of ‘balanced teams’ and ‘belonging’.
  • It is not recommended that specific disability programs such as neuro-diversity programs are prioritised above others as they fail the test of Universal Design principles. By focusing on one over other disabilities, we inevitably exclude others. Best practice approach suggests building in accessibility and inclusion into end-to-end recruitment process, such as asking what adjustments people may need for an interview then following through with training for recruiters and hiring managers. The Australian Network on Disability has done some excellent work in this space.
  • A flexible approach to flexibility is key across different operating environments. This concept is covered in an article on the FW Academy and includes some common elements we can all strive for. IAG is also leading the industry in providing more flexibility for their team, particularly in relation to options for contact centre employees who are often placed in the too-hard basket.

Learning Forum: June 2019

In this Learning Forum we covered a range of topics related to flexible work, including the role of managers in enabling flexible work, building trust, merging different flexible work cultures in company mergers, counteracting a billable hours culture that is sometimes in contradiction to flexible work, and the myths surrounding flexible work and it’s feasibility in certain operational roles.

Key discussion and resources included:

  • Boosting the takeup of flexible work by both women and men. A combination of initiatives can increase the take-up of flexible work in your organisation, including a business case led by the CEO/Executive Team, supporting managers to understand that ‘Fairness is not sameness’, providing templates and support to frontline leaders to enable flexible work, setting aside judgment and preconceived notions of the types of role that can be worked flexibly and challenging assumptions that they cannot, and packaging flexibility to include hours, leave arrangements and location.
  • The Flexibility toolkit available on the FW Academy outlines best practices to adopt in your workplace and includes guiding principles and a 4-step framework for requesting flexibility. This toolkit also defines flexible arrangements – including location, hours and leave arrangements, challenging the notion that flexibility is primarily about working from home.
  • A business case that details the strong business case for flexible work arrangements.
  • Research from the Australian Institute of Family Studies showed fathers are more likely to choose flexible work or working from home arrangements rather than reduce work hours to fit work around childcare. The report also shows the increasing percentage of families in Australia where both parents work – another driver for flexible work and leave.
  • A detailed case study on flexible work prepared by the NSW Government that features companies such as BHP, Mirvac, NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet and Qantas. Of particular interest is the inclusion of BHP and how they integrated flexible work into a global, 24/7 business that has a range of employees in business and operational environments; from fly-in-fly-out employees in remote and regional locations, to employees working in the major cities. Origin also includes their flexible work options that includes parental leave, all roles flex, career breaks and job as a recruitment driver on their website.
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