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Auto companies among employers of choice for women

Cited: A female assembly line worker at GM Holden's Elizabeth plant in South Australia.

Holden, Cummins and Deloitte receive federal award recognising workplace diversity

Holden logo15 Mar 2012

GM HOLDEN, Cummins and Deloitte are among 125 Australian organisations to receive a 2012 Employer of Choice for Women citation, awarded this week by the federal government’s Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA).

Holden was one of five manufacturers to qualify for a citation – the others were GlaxoSmithKline Australia, PepsiCo Australia Group and petroleum companies BP and Shell – while the Melbourne-based South Pacific division of global diesel engine powerhouse Cummins Inc, Cummins South Pacific, was recognised in the ‘other services’ division.

Deloitte received its citation in the ‘professional, scientific and technical services’ category.

EOWA director Helen Conway said the total of 125 citations was the highest the agency had awarded over the past five years, despite increasingly stringent assessment criteria.

“The leaders of the organisations on this list recognise there is a competitive advantage to be obtained by employing a diverse workforce,” Ms Conway said.

“They are attracting women into non–traditional roles where there are skills shortages, reaping the rewards of increased retention rates, and realising the benefits of flexible work practices.”

 center imageLeft: EOWA director Helen Conway. Below: Cummins South Pacific director of parts & service, sales & marketing and logistics Vicki Pafumi.

Running since 2001, the EOWA Employer of Choice for Women citation program is designed to acknowledge organisations that recognise and advance women in the workplace.

The assessment criteria cover a range of workplace issues including “pay equity, women in executive management, flexibility, sex-based harassment and career development training”.

The citation also requires the organisation’s CEO “to be the driving force behind the culture which supports the advancement of female employees”.

Deloitte has been outstanding in receiving a citation every year since the program’s inception and winning an EOWA award in 2008 for the ‘Leading Organisation for the Advancement of Women’.

This was largely due to its ‘Inspiring Women’ program that, beyond increasing the number of women at the firm, focuses on “supporting and developing women across the entire span of their career”.

Over the past six years Cummins has received four awards, including successive citations from 2007 to 2009.

Now with Peter Jensen-Muir at the helm as managing director (replacing Dennis Quinn from mid-March), the South Pacific division has 40 branches and more than 1700 employees across the region, making it the largest company-owned distribution network for Cummins Inc outside the US.

Among the key diversity initiatives at the local Cummins subsidiary was the establishment six years ago of a ‘Women’s Affinity Group’. The so-called WAG was also recently involved in the development of a new parental leave policy with six months’ pay for the primary carer – up from 15 weeks.

Mr Quinn said the parental leave scheme was one of the best in Australia and demonstrates the company’s “ongoing commitment to supporting Cummins’ working parents and also to attracting and retaining skilled female employees”.

“Cummins has worked hard to stand out as a leader in diversity initiatives in the South Pacific region,” he said.

In recent years, Holden and Ford Australia both received citations in 2007 and 2008, while Autoliv Australia was recognised in 2007.

Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux said the latest citation – the company’s fifth overall – acknowledges “the continued efforts of many people across Holden who recognise the importance of gender diversity”.

“Our progress in the areas of women in manufacturing, workplace flexibility, parental leave, gender pay equity and leadership engagement were pivotal elements of our application,” he said.

“Workplace diversity is something I have championed at Holden and one of my key priorities is to drive an inclusive culture that supports and retains women in Holden’s workforce.” Holden says women currently account for almost 13 per cent of its total workforce, 20 per cent of the salaried workforce and 15 per cent of the leadership group.

The company claims to have been the first Australian automotive manufacturer to introduce 14 weeks’ paid parental leave for employees with more than two years’ service (implemented in 2002), and has also established a diversity committee that acts as a “company think-tank to help us address gender equality issues and improve workplace flexibility”.

Holden’s senior HR manager for organisational capability Kirsten Makin said: “Workplace diversity is embedded in everything we do as an organisation and has become part of our everyday practice and culture – every function at Holden now has a diversity plan.

“We’ve already identified future focus areas for Holden, which include achieving best practice in the areas of workplace flexibility and pay equity beyond 2012.”

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