Why Workplace Flexibility Matters

Valeria Ignatieva, Co-Founder of Diverse City Careers (DCC), one of our Partner organisations, shares with us her personal account of why workplace flexibility matters, and how it fuelled her passion to build DCC to help women find supportive employers.

Significant numbers of working women and men value the opportunity to work flexibly to accommodate lifestyle, caring responsibilities or other interests. In a recent Australian survey commissioned by Airtasker, 38% of those surveyed indicated that flexibility was more important to them than pay when looking for work. Employers who don’t genuinely offer flexible work arrangements to their workforce are losing out on talent to competitors who do . It’s that simple.

DCC believe in it so much they also offer the Flex Able Certification, which is awarded to organisations after a careful examination of when, where and how the company’s employees work to ensure flexible work options are a reality. Cbus, Aurecon and BP were the first organisations in Australia to become accredited.

Read Valeria’s story and find out her why…

10 years ago, I was on an upwards trajectory in my corporate career, then I was retrenched

I was working my way up the career ladder while raising my son and enjoying life. Then the GFC hit, I became a single parent and was retrenched from a job I loved. As a mum to a child with a disability, I was hoping to find a role that was both rewarding, yet flexible. Without any support networks, I had a “beggars can’t be choosers” attitude and was extremely grateful for each opportunity that presented itself.

I went through many interviews where the hiring managers were very impressed with my CV and achievements to date. However, when it came to the second or third interview, things went downhill.

At the time, I thought asking up front if there was any flexibility in the role to accommodate my caring responsibilities was the right thing to do

“I’m sorry, but this is a 9-5 role only,” was the standard response.

Disappointed time after time, I’d resigned myself to working in a café, where I washed dishes for $10 per hour. I was convinced that there was nothing ‘corporate’ for me out there, which would accommodate my situation. Almost a year went past before I worked up the confidence to contact my old network and luckily land a role back in the corporate world. The employer was fantastic, fully supporting me and my responsibilities as a parent. In return, I gave that role everything I had and more.

This experience opened my eyes and showed me there were some incredible organisations out there, which didn’t just look at hours’ spent at the desk, but the outcomes delivered

I often think about how my life would have panned out had I not received those opportunities. I am grateful, yet sad because I know I’m not the only one experiencing the crushing disappointment of not being able to join the professional workforce, even if fully capable to do so.

This is my number one passion for co-founding Diverse City Careers (DCC) two years ago. DCC is Australia’s only jobs board that pre-screens employers to ensure they support women’s careers.

Almost weekly, we hear from women who are at different stages of their careers, yet have one thing in common. Their careers are ‘on hold’ or extinguished after having children

Some of the comments we’ve heard include:

“I’ve got two kids, so I guess my career is over”

“I was a senior marketing manager, but would be happy with whatever now. I just want the flexibility.”

These are often women in their mid to late 30’s, who have built up careers for over a decade. From my own experience, I know all too well how demotivating this hit to their confidence levels must be.

If you are in the prime of your career, can you imagine all of that taken away from you tomorrow?

It’s also important to recognise that flexibility isn’t only important just for parents

With the ageing population in Australia, flexibility is needed by carers, people with disabilities and in fact most people prefer to have the option of flexible work arrangements. Let’s be honest, productivity does not thrive in a ‘chained to the desk’ culture.

At DCC, one of the key factors we look for in an employer is their attitude toward flexible working.

In order to ascertain this, we ask the following questions as part of our comprehensive criteria process:

  1. Do you have a formal policy or informal strategy on flexible working arrangements?
  2. At what stage of the hiring process do you explore flexible working arrangements?
  • When designing the job brief
  • Phone screening stage
  • In person interview
  1. Are men taking up flexible work arrangements within your organisation?
  2. Is the leadership team modelling flexible working?

This means that women who apply for jobs on our website know that the employer on the other end is open to having the conversation about flexibility from the beginning.

All the employers we have on board are leading the way when it comes to supporting their staff. They share our belief in transparency, and have outlined exactly what initiatives are in place to support women on their profile pages. This includes policies on flexibility, amount of paid parental leave, leadership programs, commitment to pay equity and more.  It is crucial to make policies gender neutral to drive adoption and create an inclusive workplace .

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Posted by Jade Collins - Femeconomy Director

Jade Collins has 20 years’ global experience in corporate executive Human Resources and management consulting roles in the Mining, Energy and Aerospace industries, leading large scale, complex multi-million-dollar change management programs. Jade finds the combination of her HR, Psychology and MBA qualifications and her leadership experience is invaluable for increasing gender equality in leadership across industries. Jade was a member of the Queensland Government's Strategic Advisory Group for the Toward Gender Parity: Women on Boards Initiative and the 2019 CQU Alumni of the Year for Social Impact for her work with Femeconomy.