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INTERVIEW: Jeroen Weimar, CEO Public Transport Victoria discusses gender diversity challenges in the public sector.
Published 18th May 2017 by Seamus Scanlon | Davidson Executive & Boards
I recently chatted with Jeroen Weimar, CEO Public Transport Victoria and member of the Top 50 Public Sector Women judging panel, about gender diversity challenges in the public sector. Here are his thoughts.
Prior to commencing with Public Transport Victoria, you had extensive experience working in transport in the UK. What have you seen done well overseas that we could adopt here in Australia to tackle the gender gap?
In the UK there are a number of ways that organisations are helping to increase women’s participation in the workplace –
- Fast tracking of development programs aimed at getting women ready to take on more senior roles
- Job shadowing to raise the profile of women and to provide insight into a ‘day in the life’ of a senior executive
- Mentoring programs that raise the profile of women in the organisation
- Job rotation where women in the organisation can work across divisions giving them more of a breadth of experience and increasing their profile at the same time
- Focus groups targeted at senior women to understand what the barriers are for women to progress in the organisation
In your opinion do you feel that Australia is ahead of the curve or lagging behind the rest of the world in our push for gender balance in the workplace?
My experience here in Melbourne’s public transport sector is that women are naturally taking leadership positions – especially in Government and the public sector.
The public sector leads by example in providing supportive workplace environments for women and that contributes to the number of females in executive and managerial roles.
I also have the privilege of working with some very impressive and dynamic women in PTV who are making a real and lasting difference to their city and State.
Although we continue to see areas where women are under-represented I think we are making real strides and real gender balance is now within our grasp.
The transport sector has been perceived as being male dominated in the past. What programs does PTV have in place to encourage females into their workforce, particularly at senior levels?
The Victorian Government recently launched the Women in Transport program, which is supported and endorsed by PTV. This program aims to increase the number of women working in the transport sector from 16 per cent to 25 per cent by 2020
As part of this, there will be funding for scholarships to enable women to study for transport related degrees, as well as apprenticeships and traineeships, with the aim of attracting 150 more women to the sector each year.
As an employer, currently 48% of overall PTV staff is female and 45% of our senior leadership team are women.
In some sectors, gender targets are seen as the only way to achieve better representation of women. What are your thoughts on this?
As above, PTV is supporting the targets outlined as part of the Victorian Government’s Women in Transport. Setting targets focuses an organisation on achieving a desired outcome and ensures that we are continually considering gender diversity as part of our business objectives and cultural journey.
As a senior male leader, what has driven you to support female leaders and become involved in the Top 50 Public Sector Women initiative as a judge?
I am inspired every day by the women that surround me: at home, here at PTV, at our partner agencies and among our operators. They challenge my thinking and are impatient for change. Above all, they make me want to be part of changing our society so that my daughter has the same opportunities that her male friends have, and that she has the same commitment to improving the world around her that I see in my female role models.
The push for gender diversity across all industries and sectors is strong but not always effective. What do you feel is the single biggest challenge facing the public sector in achieving gender balance at senior levels?
The single biggest challenge to achieving a truly diverse workplace is unconscious bias. While overt discrimination is mostly understood to be unacceptable in the workplace, people need to be educated to understand that often their unconscious behaviours in the face of difference result in a bias towards people like themselves in recruitment, promotion and remuneration practices. This often results in a lack of women on executive leadership teams. Leaders, like me, must take responsibility for addressing this.
The public sector is no different to other workplaces in that we have a significant gender pay gap at the senior levels, which must also be acknowledged and addressed.
Entries are now open and nominations can be submitted for the Top 50 Public Sector Women (Victoria). For more information go to: www.publicsectorwomen.com.au