After attending an International Women’s Day panel discussion last year, policy researcher Hannah Bretherton noticed one glaring issue – there were no men in the room.
“If we aim to live in a 50/50 society, how are we going to get there if only half of us take part in the discussion?” she said. “I believe that to tackle gender inequality men and women need to have an equal share in driving change.”
Frustrated with the all-female echo chambers on International Women’s Day, and inspired by a group of women in Iceland who, in 2016, left work at 2.38pm to protest the gender pay gap, Bretherton decided to singlehandedly launch the 3:30 Project in March 2018.
In Australia, the gender pay gap currently sits at 14.1 percent, which means on average women are working 1.5 unpaid hours every day. Using these statistics, the 3:30 Project encourages men and women in senior leadership positions to stop work at 3:30pm on International Women’s Day and dedicate 1.5 hours to discuss and implement strategies to improve gender equality in their organisations.
“The 3:30 Project aims to shift what it means to take part in International Women’s Day so that participants can go from being part of a celebration to being part of a solution,” Bretherton said.
With an impressive background in policy research for former NSW Premier Bob Carr and the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, Bretherton has the experience to tackle implementation challenges facing businesses as they address gender inequality in the workplace.
As part of the 3:30 Project’s launch event on International Women’s Day last Friday, Bretherton sat down with the UTS Business School’s executive team and led a 1.5 hour workshop, where she presented the organisation’s current data on gender inequality and suggested a number of strategies that could be implemented to reduce the gender pay gap and support women into senior leadership positions.
“The whole purpose of the 3:30 Project workshop is to come out of the discussion with practical actions that can be implemented over the next 12 months to bring about meaningful change,” Bretherton said. “These can be anything from quick wins like banning the ‘manel’ or introducing diversity champions; or they might commit to undertaking more intense reviews of inherent biases in recruitment and promotion processes, or look at topping up pay gaps or superannuation balances.”
Deputy Dean at the UTS Business School, Professor Carl Rhodes, said Friday’s workshop gave the organisation an opportunity to reflect on the gender equality issues they face, as well as develop a set of tangible actions and initiatives they can introduce over the next year.
“Our immediate next step is to formalise that into a plan and allocate specific responsibilities to different members of our management team,” he said. “We will implement and monitor progress and results throughout the year, and then formally review progress on International Women’s Day 2020.”
“Many organisations are starting to recognise they need to do more than pay lip service to equality for women.”
However, as an organisation that has been awarded the WGEA’s Employer of Choice for Gender Equality 17 years in a row, the UTS Business School was a relatively easy target. Bretherton acknowledges that one of the key challenges in the future will be getting organisations on board who are not as committed to addressing gender inequality, but she is optimistic that organisations are becoming more aware of these issues.
“I have pitched the 3:30 Project to a lot of organisations who thought it was a great idea but were unwilling to actually commit the time and energy to participate,” she said. “I do believe this is changing, however, and many organisations are starting to recognise they need to do more than pay lip service to equality for women.”
After a successful launch event, Bretherton said she will continue working towards getting more organisations on board with the 3:30 Project next year.
“I will definitely continue building my client base with these workshops I’m leading, but it would be great if more organisations could use International Women’s Day as an opportunity to get together and have a strategic discussion around gender inequality. It’s easy to run an event or have a speaker but if they’re not taking practical action then nothing’s going to change.”
The 3:30 Project’s Recommended Actions For Organisations
- Make sure all staff have access to flexible working arrangements and this is encouraged as part of workplace culture to avoid stigmatisation;
- Introduce ‘opt out’ promotions processes for women;
- Make sure recruitment panels are 50/50 male and female;
- Encourage male staff to be ‘diversity champions’ to promote and encourage an inclusive workplace so the burden of cultural change does not only fall on women;
- Ban the ‘manel’ – an all-male panel of speakers;
- Consider topping up the gap in female staff superannuation or continue paying super during maternity leave; and
- Track professional development and training to monitor whether women and men are equally accessing these extra career opportunities.
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