Liz Darlington-Brown
April 10, 2023
Diversity & Inclusion, Gender Equality

Who is responsible for role-modelling gender equality?

When we dive into the details on the fight for gender equality, we tend to focus our attention on the large corporations — the giants in the business world.

While it is incredibly important to make sure that the biggest influencers in the market are progressive and tackling the on-going problem of gender equality, we cannot ignore the influence of small and medium enterprises (SME’s).

 A whopping 40 per cent of the workforce is made up of SME’s, and this large chunk of the workforce is not being focused on.

This often comes down to two key misconceptions:

  1. We have a predisposition to think ‘the larger the corporation, the more influence it has to drive change’, which is actually not always the case.
  2. A lot of SME’s don’t have HR, who can be perceived to own the gender equality agenda – also not the case!

In a recent article in Smart Company, Adore Beauty founder Kate Morris shared her view on SME’s responsibility to do more for gender equality: “while big corporates have the resources to do the heavy lifting on workplace equality, SMEs have a role to play in moving the needle.”

As individuals, SME’s may not be large with influence or resource, but as a collective, they hold 40 per cent of the workforce. Now to me, that is a large enough stake to be deemed as ‘influential’.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s annual report on the Australian state of play in gender equality has recently been releasedhowever under theWorkplace Gender Equality Act 2012, only businesses of 100+ employees have to report.

While this report is vital to requiring transparency in big business reporting and builds the momentum for change, it doesn’t tell the story of what’s happening for 40 per cent of Australia’s workforce.

A Human Agency’s CEO, Katriina Tahka, believes that the potential impact of SME’s shouldn’t be discounted. In fact, SME’s have an opportunity to role-model gender equality.

“Female Entrepreneurs are one of the fastest growing business sectors and market influencers. Big businesses are missing out on the opportunity to attract and retain female talent when they leave to start up their own businessas well as the revenue from female customers if they fail to understand the impact of women’s decision making on spending. We’re really proud to have recently become a member of Femeconomy.  Eligibility requires businesses to be at least 50% female owned and we encourage supporting each other in procurement decisions.  The size of a workplace does not determine the influence, there’s a David (or Donna?!) and Goliath situation unfolding in gender equality!”.

Regardless of the size of your business, the top 3 things that will make a difference are:

  • Cultivating a workplace culture that is inclusive of everyone;
  • Allowing and encouraging both men and women to vary their work patterns, especially in the years that they have caring responsibilities;
  • Encouraging women’s development and career progression via targeted opportunities such as sponsorship, which we know makes a big difference to advancing female careers.

A Human agency understands that SME’s do not always have the resources to generate this type of change, which is why we work alongside SME’s to create influential powerhouses.

Our HR team is your HR Partner, so get in touch, and let’s reimagine your workplace.

P: 02 9042 1406  

E: [email protected]

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We offer an initial, confidential appointment tailored to address your questions and guide you in the right direction, whether you're embarking on a new HR journey or seeking expert advice and guidance on complex workplace issues.

This allows us to learn about your business goals and objectives; and for you to get to know our team and how we can support you to achieve those goals.

Our sessions are designed to:

  • understand your specific questions, covering your current situation, potential challenges in culture, behaviour, performance, diversity or inclusion, and any other concerns you may have.
  • Collaboratively assess your current landscape and outline actionable steps towards meaningful change, providing assurance and support along the way.
  • Most importantly establish a foundation for working together. We want you to feel confident that we are the right HR partner for you, because this is your business’ future you are about to invest in, so we need to get it right. 

We look forward to meeting you.


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