#EmbraceEquity this International Women’s Day

7th March 2023

How can we ensure equity alongside equality in the workplace?

It’s all about levelling the playing field...

This International Women’s Day, we chatted to a group of Civica’s leading women in tech around the globe to discuss all the issues

The panel

  • Ayesha Shokar, Senior People Partner
  • Frena Maheta, Technical Recruiter
  • Julie Morton, Sales Director, Libraries & Education ANZ
  • Kelly Gibbs, Senior Product Manager, Libraries
  • Sneha Deshmukh, Senior Test Analyst

How can we make sure we're truly embracing equity, and not just equality, in the workplace?

Ayesha Shokar: It’s important to understand the difference. Equality is about access to opportunity and giving that access and treating everybody the same. Equity is about recognising that people may have different starting points; some people might need additional support to get to that same starting point and we need to ensure they are not left behind.

Equity is about levelling the playing field and ensuring all employees have access to what they need to succeed.

Frena Maheta: There are many ways we can ensure we’re embracing equity in work. First off, we can conduct a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) audit to see where an organisation may be lacking and develop a plan to address these issues.

We should create policies that prioritise equity and communicate the importance of these policies to employees. This can include training on topics like unconscious bias and microaggressions. We can also improve hiring and promotion processes. This includes examining job descriptions, interview questions, and performance evaluation criteria to ensure they do not contain biases that may disadvantage certain groups.

Other ways include providing better accessibility and alternative work arrangements, such as flexible schedules or remote work – and always encourage employees to provide feedback on their experiences and how the organisation can improve its equity efforts.

Julie Morton: In my mind, equity and diversity go hand in hand. To embrace equity, we need to acknowledge and understand difference. We are all different, with different needs. This is a beautiful thing as difference brings richness and depth to an organisation structure. Providing employees with the resources that they need to access the same opportunities leads to an inclusive culture, where we all have a voice, we are heard and empowered and as such, Civica directly benefits from the varied insights and innovation which follows.

Kelly Gibbs: Equality is centred around giving everyone a seat at the same table. While this is great, striving for equity is arguably even more important as it pushes us to recognise that everyone has different needs and circumstances, and we cannot place everyone in a single box.

As a team, and as a business, we should be adjusting and providing access to different resources, support, and even sometimes environments so that everyone can work effectively and achieve their goals.

Sneha Deshmukh: I believe Civica is one of the best examples of an organisation that truly believes in embracing equity, not just equality. It is empowering its employees, to help us upskill our knowledge and get equal opportunities in our career progression. Women in the workplace have benefitted from a skills-based approach to hiring via our Relaunch program. Working from home and flexibly also helps us to strike a better work-life balance.

Have you ever experienced a situation where equity was really promoted or forgotten?

Ayesha: Equity can be hard to demonstrate. This is because what constitutes fair and equitable treatment is often subjective and unique to the experiences of everyone. DEI is a journey for all organisations and many are at the start: so I’ve seen lots of examples where it’s been forgotten. For equity to be successful it requires a shift in focus and consideration – how can you help your people perform at their best and reach potential? This must be driven through all parts of the organisation.

Julie: Our recent Spydus Hackathon was an excellent positive example of equity. It provided all team members with the opportunity to take part and form their own teams. It then provided a platform for everyone to promote and share their ideas. It showcased skill sets in our colleagues that had previously been hidden and even more, it realised oven ready ideas for go to market solutions. A great success – the only thing that could have been different was a change of name. Some people, including myself, didn’t take part because the word ‘hackathon’ suggested a requirement for a technical competence. But this has been acknowledged and embraced and future ‘hackathons’ will be presented under a different title that includes all.

Kelly: One area that I think Civica really excels in is flexible working. Each of us have different circumstances at home that impact how we show up to work, and even when or where we work. Since the shift to flexible working, it’s been amazing to see colleagues with children taking the time they need to do things like the school run, or share lunch with family and, in many cases, to even meet various members of their families who pop into the room during calls.

I’ve personally enjoyed having the flexibility to work from home – it’s helped me really improve my food prep and exercise routine, and made it easier for me to work at night instead of the morning, as this suits me and my own learning style better.

Sneha: I’m grateful for having experienced equity really being promoted at Civica! The best example is the Civica Relaunch Drives where you are judged purely on your skills.

In the future, I’d like to see more development in leave policies to be even more inclusive of women’s needs, to meet the needs of new mothers or women’s health issues – these small changes can make a huge difference to the women in the workforce.

How can everyone make a difference to support a culture where equity is at the fore of the agenda?

Ayesha: We need to create safe, inclusive spaces, treat people with dignity and respect, listen and understand differences in perspective and lived experiences. We must also allow people to have a voice and challenge, don’t dismiss people because they may be different to you. Finally, we can challenge our own mindsets and understand our own biases – this is the key to helping us all grow.

Frena: Building a culture of equity requires the collective efforts of everyone in society. Firstly, educate yourself: learn about the experiences of marginalised communities and the systems of oppression that they face. Read books, listen to podcasts, attend workshops and seminars, and engage with people from diverse backgrounds.

Once you’ve listened, you can use your own platform and influence to amplify their voices. Share their stories and advocate for their rights. Speak up when you witness biased behaviours or language, whether it's in your personal or professional life. Challenge the stereotypes and biases that perpetuate inequality and discrimination.

Support organisations and initiatives which promote DEI in your community or workplace. This could include donating money, volunteering your time, or advocating for policy changes. Hold yourself accountable for your own biases and work towards overcoming them. Hold others accountable for their actions that perpetuate inequality and discrimination and encourage them to make changes.

Julie: We can all support a culture of equity by being mindful of difference and acknowledging that what works for one person could completely alienate or disadvantage another – both our words and our actions should always be inclusive. Privilege should be shared, where possible. We should support our colleagues and assist people by providing them with a platform to showcase their talents and giving them the confidence to have a voice of their own.

Kelly: The first step is asking questions, and the second step is listening. If we foster a culture where our team-mates can tell us what they need to be able to achieve their goals, then we’re already on the way to a more equitable culture.

Sneha: If everyone understands that a person’s skills cannot be judged based on what language he/she can or cannot speak, what gender they are or what degrees they hold. This can help everyone to achieve their goals purely based on the skills they have.

How are you striving to #EmbraceEquity?

Ayesha: For me, it’s not enough to have a diverse workforce; embracing equity requires acknowledgement and understanding of the inequalities people face. We need to break down the barriers to equity and offer tailored support to those that need it. We also need to cultivate spaces where all people feel they belong and empower them to be their best so we can all thrive together.

Julie: Every day is an opportunity to learn and grow, to both embrace difference and to make a difference. I always strive to support colleagues where I can – there is nothing more rewarding than giving someone a helping hand. There is also nothing more encouraging than receiving the same support from colleagues around the business. In the words of one of my favourite authors, Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”.

Kelly: Remembering that there is power in difference, and above all staying curious and open to learning about the people around me.

Sneha: I am determined to embrace equity by encouraging a culture of empathy and understanding within and around me, not just in the office but at home and with my family too. Also, I was given the great opportunity to re-join the workforce (which has helped me relive my dream again) so I want to help others get the same fair chance by supporting and promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace and community.