How fertility benefits can impact employee recruitment and retention

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Is subsidising frozen human eggs for storage or helping with IVF treatments a genuine boon for workplace diversity and female employee recruitment and retention?

Probably the answer is a qualified – yes. The “fertility benefit” is no longer an imaginative fantasy nor an outlandish fad. It is a perk or incentive increasingly being offered by companies in the USA and UK and elsewhere.

In Australia, too, there seems to be an uptake in acceptance that this is both a realistic and worthwhile benefit for many in the workforce – one which some women are actively seeking from employers. As the science and efficacy of these treatments has improved so has the demand.

As with many other diversity initiatives, ‘fertility benefits’ can, if handled well, be an added dimension to diverse and inclusive options available to organisations which are fully committed to taking a holistic approach. But as the linked articles point out the consequences can be nil or even negative if the wrong message is conveyed.

This will be the case if it is seen as a cynical or opportunistic move to induce women to delay their child-bearing years so that maximum productivity can be extracted during that period. If, on the other hand, it is introduced with broad consultation and squarely within the parameters of a DEI strategy, the perception is likely to be different. Namely, it provides working women with tools to empower themselves, have better control over their lives and to increase their autonomy and capacity to make long-term decisions.

In this respect it can indeed be seen as an authentic strategy to accommodate differences in the DEI space.

Abortion rights under threat in America

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The right of women to abortion in the USA is under threat. The Supreme Court has declined, for the time being, to interfere with a Texas law which effectively prohibits abortion when a heartbeat can be detected. Astonishingly it gives any private individual the right to institute legal action against a clinic or other person who participates in or assists in the procuring of such a prohibited abortion. Roe v Wade which entrenched these rights across the USA might soon be overturned affecting the rights of women to control their own reproduction and to have autonomy over their own bodies. If carried to its ultimate goal by anti-abortionists it will be a monumental reversal of advances made to women’s rights in the 20th century.

As a further cruel irony, this situation may be the legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the most doughty fighter on the Supreme Court for women’s rights. When she was old and in failing health, Ginsburg was asked by President Obama to resign so that a younger liberal jurist could be appointed. She declined and died at a time when Donald Trump could appoint a staunch conservative and active campaigner against abortion, Amy Coney Barrett. The Court now has a distinctly archly- conservative majority. Women in the USA and elsewhere will hold their breath to see how this critical issue turns out.

Does Equal Pay Day truly answer gender gap issues in Australia?

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WGEA has announced that 31st August is Equal Pay Day for 2021. This is the date on which the average wage for women In Australia reaches the level attained by men at the end of the past financial year. Put differently, Australian women need to work, on average for 14 months to accrue the same average income as men do in 12 months. The gender wage gap has remained fairly static in Australia for some years and has actually widened in the last 12 months.

WGEA describes this as a matter of concern. Of perhaps even greater concern is Australia’s decline to rank 50th on the WEF Global Gender Gap Index, 2021. Australia has been steadily falling in the rankings and we now stand in very unfavorable contrast to our near-neighbor, New Zealand which ranks 4th. While Australia has made some progress on gender equity such as female representation on boards, the drive for equity and equality in many other areas has stalled. Both the public and private sectors should not become complacent. If they do, we will continue to go backward.

Recognising unconscious bias in an organisation

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By now, most people recognise that humans are subject to a range of unconscious biases which negatively impact decisions. Combatting these biases as an individual is difficult because, by definition, they are numerous and lurk beyond ordinary awareness.

Working with global organisations, Symmetra advocates it as critical to focus on vital areas of biased decision-making.

The research described in an HBR article has identified four key patterns of bias which undercut the ability of women and diverse groups of colour to compete on an equitable basis in recruitment, promotion and workplace selections.

They are:

  • Prove it again – women and people of colour have their mistakes noticed more and remembered longer
  • The tightrope – women and people of colour are judged frequently on personality traits (helpful, modest, pleasant)
  • The maternal wall – mothers are believed to suddenly lose their ambition and commitment to the job
  • Racial stereotypes—for example, only white males exhibit leadership qualities.

This distillation of critical biases provides a sharp framework for leaders to hone in on some of the biggest barriers regarding the intersectionality of racial and gender inclusion.

Sexism and discrimination at work

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Women who complain that sexism, discrimination, casually dismissive attitudes towards females and victimisation are cultural, are often accused of paranoia or of having a fertile imagination. In fact, there is an abundance of evidence that many organisations simply overlook ´bad boy “behavior – or worse still, encourage it.

California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing is taking legal action against gaming company, Activision. Allegedly: men arrived at work ”proudly“ with hangovers; play games and delegate their work to female juniors; joke about rape; openly discuss sexual encounters. When complaints were made, female employees were deprived of work, transferred or selected for layoff. Allegedly, at least one suicide resulted. As Symmetra has argued, until it is recognised that many of the ills which women face in the workplace are systemic and borne of toxic cultures, little progress will be made in alleviating them.


2015 Pride in Practice Conference

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IMG_3223hThe only Australian conference dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) workplace inclusion. Produced by Australia’s National Employer Support Program for LGBTI Inclusion and the Developers of the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) – Pride in Diversity.

Heather presented on the topic;

Unconscious bias and sexual orientation: What does it look like? How does it impact on decisions that are made about members of the LGBT community? And what can we do about it?


Developing a brand strategy in Asia through inclusion and leveraging Diversity of Thought

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Recently Symmetra had the pleasure of partnering with the Seoul Sales and Marketing team in a manufacturing and distribution company of consumer goods.  The international company has made some early progress with their broad diversity and inclusion agenda.  They wanted to use the brand strategy workshop in Seoul as a strong, compelling and visible symbol for embedding diversity and inclusion in their business.  Let us tell you how this was achieved.

The Seoul Sales and Marketing team scheduled a 3 day brand strategy workshop with a diverse group of participants from Sales, Marketing, HR, and Finance as well as General Managers.  The first day focused on Symmetra building participants’ capability and confidence to create the right environment and leverage diversity of thought for creating an innovative brand strategy.  More specifically one of our Executive Facilitators, Rod Smart, facilitated a highly interactive and compelling workshop to:

  • Build the business case for diversity and inclusion to achieve innovation and high performance
  • Introduced the concept of and cultural conditions required to leverage diversity of thought
  • Highlighted common unconscious biases that hinder innovation
  • Shared and practiced strategies for counteracting bias as well as creating psychological safety and inclusion.

The rest of the workshop focused on building the brand strategy whilst applying some of the newly learned techniques.  Rod played a ‘real time coaching’ role during these 2 days.  He provided both informal and structured feedback to individuals and the group as a whole to help them maintain psychological safety, foster inclusion and leverage the diversity of thought in the room.

Feedback from participants highlight the value Rod and Symmetra made to the workshop experience as well as the quality of the brand strategy produced:

Rod says “An exciting and most productive new application of Symmetra’s ground breaking ideas to the process of strategy building”.

Symmetra’s experience shows that blending the capability building with application and coaching can help build real, solid engagement and commitment for diversity and inclusion.

Symmetra delivering FlexAgility Workshop in Hong Kong 2016

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Heather Price in Hong Kong delivering a session on FlexAgility for the Diversity and Inclusion Asian Network (DIAN), sponsored by Community Business 

“This was attended by Executives, HRDs and Diversity and OD leads from a range of blue chip multinationals in IT, Law, Financial services, Media and Professional services who operate across Asia.

Whilst all have cutting edge policies most are grappling to get traction in their flexibility agenda says Heather.”

“The FlexAgility Workshop is designed to change the way leaders think about flexible working. It is not just about setting up flexible working arrangements for success – but about providing leaders with the insight that leading effectively in the modern day economy requires agility – the skill to exercise individual judgment and wisdom in response to the increasingly diverse needs and expectations of the workforce and to the ambiguity and uncertainty of the workplace where change has become the new normal”.

“This shift in the mindset of leaders about FlexAgility, from an inconvenient employee perk to a strategic business imperative, is what will close the gap between policy and  practice on flexibility in organisations”.

Quotes from attendee’s

“I learned a great deal from the session and am eager to share key realizations with my team”.

Thomson Reuters

Thank you for delivering such an excellent workshop this morning! Participants are all leaving with some practical takeaways and are eager to bring back their insights to their leaders and drive change!”

Matthew YU, Program Manager, D & I, Community Business


How Big Data Analytics will boost Diversity and Inclusion

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Businesswoman standing looking at data flowchart in cloudy landscape


Big data analytics is a relatively new methodology for collecting and analysing vast amounts of data – much of it from sources previously untapped. It creates a new capacity for organisations to discover hidden patterns of important information and thus improve their ability to make predictions and decisions.

Collecting and analysing data has always been important for business. What has now changed is that through technological advances linked to immensely more powerful computing systems, data can be collected rapidly, from a vast number of sources sorted and then analysed. Big data may come from emails, location data, spoken interactions, postings on social media questionaries and interviews.

Companies and organisations now recognise that applying the metadata lens to data relating to employees or prospective employees, derived from a multiplicity of sources, can offer significantly amplified signals of workplace problems and at the same time, it can reveal new potential and opportunities for the business. This is known as People Analytics or Talent Analytics.


For HR, gaining new insights through a comprehensive analytics system can undoubtedly improve performance, help to make the work experience more satisfying for employees and identify trends on engagement and culture and offer companies a competitive advantage. This intelligence can offer new strategies to help direct how, when and where interventions should occur.

Thus, Pfizer, AOL and Facebook use People Analytics to identify factors that correlate with high performance and retention; BP uses it to evaluate its training programs, Google uses it to dissect interviews in order to extract maximum insight as to the possible suitability of prospective hires.

Xerox which employs 45,000 workers in its customer care centres previously filled positions through interviews and basic assessments of technical efficiency. Some 5 years ago after switching its recruitment to big data analytics, XEROX discovered that previous experience was not a useful predictor of employee performance but rather the distance between home and work was strongly associated with employee engagement and retention. Insights like this could, in addition, have implications for the business case for flexible and remote working.

In Australia, Commonwealth Bank has been using a predictive analysis tool for the past three years to answer such questions as which employees are most likely to resign and which employees will be the best performers. The analytics tool affords the Bank a predictive capability so that future problems can be avoided.


In the USA the most progressive companies in the diversity arena have already implemented big data analytics to accelerate the progress of women and other diverse groups in their organisations. The vast majority of companies ranked in the top 50 for Diversity in 2016 have achieved this status through exploiting the abundance of available data. Many of the top diversity companies employ  data scientists and have installed dedicated software to help discover new pools of talent as well as to produce metrics showing that diversity and inclusion gives businesses a competitive advantage.

The advent of people analytics supported by big data has created a new paradigm for the sourcing, hiring and retaining of diverse talent. No one has put this more pertinently than Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel who has written in a recent article (May 2016) “When it comes to ‘doing’ diversity and inclusion we need to measure what matters: hiring rates, exits and turnovers, progression and promotion rates and pay parity. Let’s go get the data, make it public and do something about it. Use data to debunk the myth that there are just not enough good candidates to hire diversity in great numbers. Let the data tell the truth.”

On the inclusion front, digital HR now has the capability to draw upon data extracted from social, mobile and cloud technology. Work can be made easier, more productive, more rewarding giving employees access to real time information and massively advanced communications systems.


The Container Store, a retail chain in the U.S.A., supplies its 5000 employees with a wearable voice activated device principally to advance communication across the group. However, it is used also to accumulate data on staff interactions, conversations with customers and is able to monitor exactly where and for how long an employee is in a given location. It provides unheralded data on employee performance. Using the data, Container store was able to identify gaps in store reporting as the area where improvement was required. As a consequence all members of the leadership team were provided with an app which dramatically enhanced the reporting functionality. Rather than being regarded as an intrusion this monitoring device has been welcomed by staff as a huge boon to their mode of working. Thus in 2015, The Container Store was ranked 14th in Fortune’s best companies to work for. It was voted the best company for women, for diversity in retail and for camaraderie.

As with many other factors which contribute to better performance, motivation and innovation in organisations,  the drive for diversity and inclusion stands on the threshold of revolutionary changes because of the advent of big data analytics. Whether a company is just embarking on its diversity journey or is already well down the track it has now available to it a solid platform of metrics upon which to base its decisions.

To learn more register for the next Symmetra Connect Event : Silicon Diversity 23 June

Unconscious Bias : A killer when pursuing innovation

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by Deb Assheton

While working with the future leaders of one of Symmetra’s major clients in Hong Kong recently I was provided with vivid insight into the importance of counter-acting unconscious bias for those organisations wishing to adopt Lean innovation principles in their future service and product developments.

Lean thinking requires that leaders enable an environment that consistently seeks diversity of thought; one that continually generates opportunities to explore new ideas. The better leaders then consider these opportunities with an attitude of not knowing, that is ‘I don’t know…let’s test and see’ and then iterate through experimentation. This framework and approach is a vast departure from a traditional organisational leadership role where a leader is often the ‘expert’, and the decision maker.

The ability to suspend judgement and allow the experimentation and testing process to unfold requires that leaders acknowledge their biases. In the world of Symmetra’s client some examples of the strong biases which surfaced during Lean workshops were:

Interest bias – where leaders were reluctant to ‘throw away’ their own ideas, even after testing demonstrated they weren’t viable

Social bias – subjecting one idea to less than rigour than others because the idea had the support of several leaders

Diagnosis bias – during customer discovery this emerged as asking leading questions of customers. That is, leaders were subtly asking questions that ‘herded customer responses’ to a pre-determined outcome – the outcome the leader thought would be best.

Action bias – there was a very strong tendency amongst this group, as we see in many organisations, to rush into action before all the questions were answered, and all the risks were understood.

Company ‘think and speak’ was the major enemy when discussing ideas with customers during real interviews. Company speak meant executives talked about features, when customers wanted to understand benefits. Company think meant time and money were being spent on non-value add activities out of ‘institutional’ habit rather than productive ones.

Perhaps the biggest call out was learning to sit side by side with ‘failure’ everyday, and to embrace it as a necessary step in the innovation process. Just about every founder knows that 90% of start-up’s fail, yet they start-up anyway – why? Because they believe they can find a way.

They seek success, but the search frequently runs into dead ends, encounters false starts and missed opportunities, and perhaps ends in the failure of the whole venture. Sometimes the search may yield a new and initially unimagined business opportunity that is scalable and ultimately successful. Either way, re-framing the ability to fail and learning from failure as a necessary, valuable and competitively advantageous skill -set is a major challenge for most leaders and organisations. This particular group demonstrated a deep willingness to learn, using activities which provoked their thinking, created awareness and challenged their assumptions. They adapted quickly. They re-framed failure as practice, and got better at asking questions to leverage diversity of thought. They owned their biases and mentally parked them; demonstrating that they too could create a culture that finds a way.