A fortnight on from the penalty rates decision, the accompanying discourse seems to be taking on a life of its own, and devaluing the lengthy and carefully-considered processes behind the decision from the Fair Work Commission.
I’ve been particularly saddened to see this independent decision politicised and brandished as a weapon in the gender equality debate during International Women’s Day this week. This is a day celebrated for more than a century, in which women around the world come together to commemorate the struggle for women’s rights. This year the United Nations theme was, ‘Empower a woman, empower a nation. Together we can empower women across the globe’.
In retail we certainly have the capacity to do just that and many of our members are heavily invested in this area.
The retail industry is the second largest employer in Australia. We employ approximately 1.2 million people, 55% of which are women and one third are between the ages of 18 to 24 years. As an industry we are more inclined to invest in gender equity strategies, which promote equal remuneration and many of you have adopted workplace cultures which are inclusive and embrace diversity, offer flexible working arrangements, digital connectivity and have a zero tolerance for sexual harassment, bullying or discrimination.
Whilst we cannot claim that our industry is perfect, we do know that our industry is working hard to be all inclusive and diverse because as an industry we recognise that diverse employers out perform their competitors by 46 %.
We should be proud of those women who have achieved great things within our industry and who are living and breathing proof of why diversity within business is so important.
This week, I thought I would take the time to recognise a few trail blazers within our industry, who you may know of but may not be familiar with. The three women of retail which I wish to celebrate, congratulate and learn from are Kristina Karlsson, Janine Allis and Katie Page.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with these amazing ladies:
Kristina Karlsson is the founder of kikki K and self-confessed stationary lover . Fifteen Years ago Kristina started a business out of her one bedroom apartment, which would connect her to her home in Sweden, drawing on her passion for design and allowing her to be excited about going to work. Kristina, turned this business into a success story that now has over 80 stores across Australia and provides gifts to customers in over 137 countries. The most inspiring thing about Kristina is her passion for our industry and her tenacity to chase of her vision of a unique quality product, which I believe we can all learn from.
Janine Allis is the Executive Director of Retail Zoo, adventurer at heart and founder of Boost Juice. There are almost 7000 people working across the four businesses under the holding company Retail Zoo and it has over 400 stores. Boost Juice itself now appears in 12 countries outside of Australia and was born from Janine’s vision to ‘do retailing differently’ which is precisely what she has achieved. Janine’s determination to create an innovative solution to encourage healthy food choices is testimony to the importance of innovation within our industry and that we can achieve anything simply by thinking outside of the square.
Katie Page worked her way from an assistant at Harvey Norman in 1983 to Chief Executive Officer in 1999, with almost 200 stores in Australia and 86 stores overseas. Katie is known for being persistent, loyal, shrewd and principled and even the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips has been quoted as saying , ‘You can’t say no to Katie’. Katie’s success extends far and beyond retail and her passion for gender equality is something to be in awe of.
These three women are examples that our industry is dedicated to the gender equity debate and in no way would we as an industry seek to undermine women’s earnings via an independent umpire such as the Fair Work Commission. The Fair Work Commission can only make decisions based on the evidence before it and no data was presented to it, which indicates that women’s earnings would be specifically undermined. The decision to reduce penalty rates in the retail and fast food industries was made, in order to ensure that the relevant awards were brought back in line with their intentions. In no way was its decision based in gender or designed to disadvantage women.
Having worked within retail and fast food for many years, I am grateful to be a part of an industry that encourages diversity and equality and to be able to recognise those women who have been able to grow within our industry, as I myself have been able too.
Today, I am pleased to say that we are seeing more and more small businesses entering the national and international market , driven by female entrepreneurs. Young Millennial women will comprise of 25% of the global workforce by 2020 and our industry is likely to reap the benefits of their skills especially, because we not only support diversity and gender equity but because the Gen Y women is looking for employers with strong records in equality and diversity. On this basis and because of the hard work I have witnessed of many of our members, we as an industry are empowering women and empowering our nation and we as an industry are stronger for it.
If any of you have any questions relating to the penalty rates decision, gender equity or how to implement new strategies which encourage diversity in your workplace please do not hesitate to contact me.
Have a wonderful week.