Knowledge Center

Commonwealth Bank of Australia—Opening the Door for Gender Diversity

Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA)'s initiative, Opening the Door for Gender Diversity, seeks to increase the number of women in senior leadership positions through a variety of strategies and programs aimed at breaking down barriers women and diverse populations often face in the workplace. CBA demonstrated its commitment to gender diversity by setting the first public target in Australian financial services for women's representation at senior levels. By valuing, respecting, and providing opportunities for all its people, CBA leverages their diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives to provide excellent customer service to an equally diverse community. As a result, the initiative supports the overall goals of the organization. The initiative, which has challenged the organization to rethink the way work gets done and identify sustainable solutions for increasing the previously low levels of employee engagement, grew out of a broader workplace culture transformation started by former CEO Ralph Norris, and continues under the leadership of current CEO Ian Narev.

Unique programs include mandatory and in-depth unconscious bias training for all senior leaders, a rigorous talent review process, and a progressive approach to building a flexible workplace. In addition, a suite of talent strategies, cross-cultural activities and investments, and professional development and leadership programs--such as CommLeader, which helps identify and develop leadership styles--supports CBA's goal of a truly inclusive workplace. To create a culture of flexibility that rewards results over face time, CBA created innovative workspaces for many employees along with business-unit-specific offerings such as a Maternity Leave Register, which allows women on leave to apply for new opportunities, and implemented more traditional flexibility options, such as telecommuting, part-time work, and job share. Because of CBA's strong support for flexibility, the proportion of employees who state they work flexibly (formally and informally) has increased from 35 percent in 2008 to 41 percent in 2011. Of those working flexibly in 2011, 36 percent are men. To ensure that leaders are held accountable for diversity progress, the CEO serves as Chair of the Diversity Council, which comprises the Executive Committee. Senior leaders are measured on diversity-related goals and performance indicators that are tied to bonus compensation.

Strong metrics and results reinforce the power of this initiative. Women's representation in executive manager and above roles has increased from 21 percent in 2005 to 30 percent in 2011, and the percentage of women on the board of directors also increased from 20 percent to 27 percent. From Branch Manager to CEO, women represent almost 45 percent of leaders in CBA. In addition, women's engagement scores were above Gallup "world's best practice levels" in three out of the last four years.