The Gender Tick at Z Energy: "Something to stand behind"

Diversity and inclusion March 8, 2021

In a world where there are stars, marks, and checks for almost every facet of life, why is it important to get a big tick for gender equity?

In 2018 the YWCA Auckland launched accreditation programme Gender Tick for businesses to demonstrate their commitment to gender equity in their workplace. It came about after New Zealand companies showed a genuine interest in what they could do to have a healthy workplace culture.

Z Energy was interested in ‘walking the talk’, in showing others outside the organisation some of its work and painting a picture of what it holds as important. Z received the Gender Tick in March 2020.

“It’s about organisations not just preaching but practising,” says Z’s Head of Employee Experience Sharne Fairbrother.

Those factors vital to receiving the Gender Tick – a gender inclusive culture, flexibility and leave, women in leadership, gender pay equity and ensuring a safe workplace – were consistent with what Z is already committed to. But the importance of an independent eye on things was key to getting the word out that Z was so much more than a box checker.

“It’s about showing those outside Z, whether it be potential employees or customers, that we are doing what is right, and we have something to stand behind.”

Sharne emphasises the need to spread the word outside Z that gender equality matters to the organisation. Almost every person has to visit Z or one of its competitors, so there is a huge variety of people visiting the stations and reflecting that customer base in the organisation’s staff makes perfect sense.

“Z represents Aotearoa/New Zealand. We are a New Zealand company, and our customers are a cut of the New Zealand population,” she says.

“The best way to equip ourselves to give great customer and employee experience is to be as diverse as our customer base.”

Sharne says if gender equality really matters at Z, the organisation has to show that right across our organisation, especially in visible leadership roles.

Z’s Board of Directors has Abby Foote at the helm as its Independent Chair and an even split of men and women on its executive team.

International research has shown women are disproportionately affected by the drastic changes forced by COVID-19. Changes at home, as well as in the workforce, have taken a hefty toll.

Sharne says Z has always held flexibility as especially important, particularly for employees.

“It’s more important than ever. We have amped up the flexibility factor and remain open to talking about what that might look like.”

International Women’s Day is on March 8. This year’s theme, Choose to Challenge, celebrates the efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and encourages celebrations of women’s achievements, as well as the calling out of gender bias and inequality where it exists.

The positives of gender diversity in the workplace have been extensively researched and range from different approaches and life experiences to lower staff turnover, improved reputation, and greater resilience for a business.

And time after time the numbers tell the story of greater profitability for a business with gender diversity. The positive impact on the bottom line is beyond doubt.

Leading diversity and inclusion practitioner Dr Kaisa Wilson co-founded Gender Tick with the YWCA and manages the assessment side of it.

Equality is what you need at the core of having a healthy and well workforce, she says.

“The foundational aspects of wellbeing are fundamental human rights. If, in your job, you are being paid differently or marginalised or treated differently, your wellbeing is at risk.”

It is particularly relevant now, with the impacts of COVID-19 hitting women especially hard.

She says the Gender Tick is good for organisations, giving them a really practical schedule to make their way through to ensure what they are doing is right around gender responsiveness in their organisation.

“We want information about which organisations are putting their money where their mouth is.”

A reaccreditation process every 18 months also keeps Gender Tick organisations on their toes, and watchful for new criteria to step up to.

If a consumer is deciding on which product to buy, seeing a logo such as the Gender Tick alongside an organisation’s branding can offer a ‘shortcut’ to helping make a choice.

“The time for making incremental change and patting on the back over small gains is over,” Kaisa says.

“We’re about action and outcomes. It’s about what gets done, not what gets talked about.”

Sharne says Z is more than happy to keep on doing, letting its actions do the talking.