Coles recognised for gender equality, launches fundraiser to support women in the workplace

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By Published On: March 7, 20230 Comments

Coles has launched a national fundraiser to support women in the workforce on the back of being awarded employer of choice for gender equality.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) has awarded Coles Group an Employer of Choice for Gender Equality (EOCGE) citation for its active commitment to achieving gender equality.

According to Coles, the supermarket chain was recognised for its leadership, increased learning and development opportunities, narrowing gender remuneration gaps, encouraging flexible working, preventing sex-based harassment and discrimination, and meeting targets for improving gender equality outcomes.

The WGEA has recognised 129 organisations as part of its 2023 Employer of Choice for Gender Equality citation-holders release. WGEA’s EOCGE criteria spans seven focus areas: Leadership, strategy and accountability; Developing a gender-balanced workforce; Gender pay equity; Support for caring; Mainstreaming flexible work  ; Preventing sexual harassment, gender-based harassment and discrimination, and bullying; and Driving change beyond your workplace.

“Leading employers, like Coles, have stepped up to the plate by taking action to accelerate change for gender equality in the workplace,” said Director of WGEA, Mary Woolridge.

“Critically, EOCGE employers are delivering an approach that results in better support structures in place for working families; stronger actions to address pay inequalities; and strategic recruitment, promotion and retention practices that encourage the full participation of women at work.”

Coles Group General Manager Corporate and Indigenous Affairs and chair of the Coles Gender Equity Steering Committee, Sally Fielke, said the company was proud to be recognised for its progress.

“Gender equity is fundamental to our ambition to build a strong, diverse and inclusive culture at Coles. We’ve continued to push for gender balance, setting targets for more women in leadership, and supporting a range of programs including talent attraction programs like RelauncHER, our accelerator program for store managers, as well as initiatives to retain the incredible women we have in our business.”

Two weeks ago, Coles appointed Leah Weckert as CEO, the company’s first women CEO in its 109 year old history. Weckert has been with Coles for over a decade as part of its executive leadership team.

Coles Group Chief Executive Officer, Steven Cain, said he was proud of the progress Coles has made to achieve greater gender equity after setting clear and ambitious commitments as part of the ‘Better Together’ strategy.

“These achievements are a testament to the dedication of our Gender Equity Steering Committee and wider leaderships team. Their important work has led to Coles being a place where team members with diverse skills and backgrounds feel like they can feel confident with their opinions, thrive in their roles, and become leaders of the organisation. I am also delighted that my successor, Leah Weckert, will be the first woman to be CEO of Coles in our long 109-year history.”

Last week, in support of International Women’s Day, Coles launched a fundraising campaign for national charity Fitted for Work, to support Australian women experiencing disadvantage to get into or return to the workforce. For two weeks,  Coles will donate 10 cents from every haircare, skincare and cosmetic product sold in supermarkets nationally, with funds raised helping Fitted for Work support unemployed and underemployed Australian women through initiatives such as recruitment workshops, a personal outfitting service, distributing workwear parcels from donated items, and post-employment mentorships.Fitted for Work Managing Director Donna de Zwart said funds raised will help women across Australia to be fitted for work and fitted for life.

“Ahead of International Women’s Day, it’s important we think about what we can all do to support the economic potential of women. We know how important organisations like Fitted for Work are with helping women from all walks of life get work, keep work and build successful careers,” said Fielke.

In the lead up to International Women’s Day 2023, Fitted for Work undertook a survey of 258 current and former clients who accessed Fitted for Work services between July 2022 and January 2023. Key findings from the research include 37 percent of women surveyeed had other responsibilities that restricted them from working,  62 percent struggle with their mental and/or physical health, 23 percent feel discriminated against because of who they are, and 46 percent are returning to work after a gap in employment. Of women surveyed who are currently looking for work 99 percent do not feel they have enough money to save for their future, and 63 percent do not feel financially stable

“Right now, women in Australia are overwhelmed and worried about the future, facing cost-of-living pressures, and widespread housing stress,” Ms de Zwart said.

Since 2005 Fitted for Work has supported over 40,000 women.

“The generous donations from Coles this March will help thousands of women on their journey towards not only finding employment but experiencing social connection and a sense of purpose.”

Coles has achieved its goal of 40 percent representation of women in leadership positions by 2023, announcing the achievement on International Women’s Day 2023. Its gender equity policy is part of its Better Together strategy, in which the company has committed to a number of diversity and inclusion initiatives to be achieved by December 2023. The program includes five key focus areas – Belonging, Gender Equity, Accessibility, Pride (LGBTQI+), and Indigenous Engagement with the overall goal of fostering an open and welcoming culture where everyone feels included.

“We’re committed to creating a workplace where everyone feels valued and supported, so we continue to attract the best people to Coles,” concluded Coles Group General Manager Corporate and Indigenous Affairs and chair of the Coles Gender Equity Steering Committee, Sally Fielke.

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About the Author: Rosalea Catterson

Rosalea is the Editor of Power Retail. With a keen interest in consumer behaviour and tech, she covers everything ecommerce and hosts the Power Retail Power Talks Podcast.

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