Jan 24, 2020

Hastings Deering leader fights part-time prejudice

Hastings Deering leader fights part-time prejudice

Jo Best has a simple solution for attracting women to the resources and construction sectors: don’t make them choose between career and family.

The Hastings Deering general manager for enterprise excellence is a finalist in the Exceptional Woman in Queensland Resources category of the 2020 Resources Awards for Women.

Ms Best has fought long and hard to change the perception that if you work part time you are not career-focused.

While organisations were embracing words like diversity and inclusion, and while significant inroads continued to be made, the biggest challenge remained in the area of flexibility, she said.

“I worked part time for 17 years leading major projects and functional teams,” Ms Best said.

“I formed the first job-share arrangement in one organisation, first senior leader to work flexibly in many others. 

“I would say to my bosses, ‘let’s agree to the results and the timeframes and let me worry about the work configuration’. My biggest challenge continued to be getting bosses to value my talent, contribution, results and career aspirations when I didn’t want to work full-time. 

“In the mid part of my career, I had to hide the fact I worked part-time.  The culture in that organisation was that I wasn’t serious, if I didn’t work full time.  I could convince my boss, but not so easy the rest of the organisation.

“I was harassed at work and missed out on career opportunities because of my flexible work arrangements.  I even had one senior woman tell me to stop wasting my time and to choose between a career and being a parent. 

“Needless to say, I didn’t choose and when I needed to work fulltime the answer came from what many would consider the most unlikely of sources – my husband.

“The CFO/CIO career-driven male, opted to work part-time while I went fulltime. Our lives paralleled: he faced prejudice in the workforce, culturally there was still a long way to go, and some generational executives wrote him off, ‘He wasn’t made of career stuff’.” 

Gender balance brings significant benefits

The Resources Awards for Women are backed by the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) and voluntary group Women in Mining and Resources Queensland (WIMARQ).

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the awards played a pivotal role in the sector’s efforts to bring better gender balance to the workforce.

He said there were significant economic and social benefits from better gender balance in the sector and the QRC believed women should have equal access to rewarding and high-paying careers it offered.

Ms Best agrees. “Policies and systems of flexibility get us on the ‘dance floor’, it’s when we have men and women working flexibility that we will change the workforce as we know it and with it reduce problems endemic with the mining and resources sector as a whole from depression and suicide to attracting and retaining critical and diverse staff,” she said.

“The other key factor is our millennials’ expectations of business. No longer is it enough that companies are profitable: they are being looked to fill the void in areas around well-being, corporate social responsibility and sustainability and address issues around pay equity, mental health, technology and upskilling.

“This is critically important to me because I’ve always believed in equal contributions – from men, women, people from different countries with different abilities, different ages and different preferences. It’s never made sense to me that we don’t maximise the opportunities for all. We seem to have created a corporate system based on one stereotype of worker. This hasn’t worked for a long time and we’re taking a ridiculously long time to figure that out.”

The Resources Awards for Women will be presented at the QRC/WIMARQ International Women’s Day Breakfast on March 5 at the Royal National Convention Centre in Brisbane.

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