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CBA’s Gender Diversity Journey - Our experiences in elevating the representation of women in leadership - A letter from business leaders (2011)

Business woman leader photo - cover of Our experiences in elevating the representation of women in leadership publication

experiences in elevating the representation of women in leadership

A letter from business leaders

CBA’s Gender Diversity Journey

Getting in the
–up to 2008

By 2008,
CBA had begun to place increasing emphasis on elevating the representation of
women in leadership. Although women were approximately 60 percent of CBA’s
workforce, they represented just 23 percent of executive manager and more senior
roles. CBA believed that an increase in women leaders would benefit the

In 2006, a
diversity council was established to serve as an advisory body. Its members
comprised internal and external people with diversity experience. This group
educated leaders and informed human resource strategies.

The human
resources team had worked to put in place a number of elements to support the
aspiration. Initiatives on health and well-being were launched in 2006. Programs
and policies that support family life—such as flexible work policies and
childcare—were also a focus. Women’s skill-building programs, with a
focus on mentoring, career development, networking and career resiliency, were
invested in. Diversity awareness programs also engaged the broader organisation.

CBA had
also set out on a journey of overall culture change in 2004. Leadership
engagement and collaboration began to be embedded as imperatives.

was strengthened—performance metrics were clearly articulated and aligned
to organisational goals. A by-product was to provide a positive organisational
context that would support elevating the representation of women in


There was
a strong sense that in order for the diversity objectives to be met, they needed
to be integrated into the broader change that was already occurring.

In 2009,
to reflect an increased emphasis on diversity, including elevating the
representation of women in leadership, CEO Ralph Norris realigned the diversity
council, of which he was Chair. The full Executive Committee became its members.
Those responsible for generating the strategies also became responsible for
their implementation and oversight.

In 2010,
CBA set a target to increase the proportion of Executive Manager roles and above
held by women from 26 to 35 percent by 2014.

To arrive
at this goal, CBA closely examined the drivers of gender disparity, breaking
down its diversity maths to a granular level. This diagnostic enabled a targeted
focus, and allowed leaders to identify interventions that would make a
meaningful difference. To ensure sustainability, CBA’s goal focused on
actions taken, as well as progress achieved.

more penetrating approach to managing diversity included clear actions taken by
Ralph Norris, CEO. For example, diversity is a standing agenda item for monthly
one-on-one discussions with direct reports. Diversity KPIs are embedded into the
performance management plans for the senior leadership team. Group Executives
are expected to generate initiatives most effective for their own groups, while
the centralised diversity strategy team contribute by identifying cross-group
programs and initiatives. Individual leaders are responsible for the
identification and development of key talent within the organisation.

In the
nine months following the announcement of the target, the representation of
women above Executive Manager rose from 26 percent to 28 percent.

Capturing the diversity
2011 and beyond

forward, CBA’s management team believes that progress requires diversity
goals to continue to be integrated into the broader program of cultural change.
Developing inclusive leaders who harness talent is a core feature of the
organisational culture, with learning and development programs aligned with this
aspiration. Tough conversations are also happening around how to further embed

CBA is
also working to address bias as part of their cultural change program. A
comprehensive ‘unconscious bias’ program involves the bank’s
top 380 leaders. This program aims to remove blind spots and address systemic

As new CEO
Ian Narev
states, ‘We’ve been focused on building a strong inclusive culture for many
years now to ensure that we can attract and motivate the best talent possible,
regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual preference. As part of this,
we know that to improve the representation of women in senior leadership roles
we need unwavering commitment. This requires the courage to try new things and
challenge long held mindsets and unconscious

aspires to a culture where diversity in talent is assumed, and is not a separate
conversation. The aspiration is that leaders will be equipped to develop
talent—regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or
previous experience and background. The belief is this culture will support true
meritocracy in the recruitment and development of CBA’s