Rice Warner walking the walk on diversity and inclusion

With Rice Warner nominated as ‘Employer of the Year’ in the Women in Financial Services Awards 2018, Lesley Traverso discusses the actuarial firm’s ‘Valuing Females Policy’ which includes additional superannuation contributions.

A lot of organisations will ‘talk the talk’ on diversity and inclusion, but not ‘walk the walk’.  We should be very proud of actuarial consulting practice Rice Warner, who not only say they value their female employees but back that with positive action. So much so, that the company is a finalist in the Money Management and Super Review’s Women in Financial Services Awards 2018 ‘Employer of the Year’ category.

Rice Warner recognised that many women faced challenges in achieving a financially secure retirement, due to longer life expectancy, lower salaries and career breaks to have children.  They put together a Valuing Females Policy which includes an additional 2% superannuation contribution, which is paid whilst on parental leave, allows long service leave to accrue throughout parental leave, and flexible working.

These policies have proved to be an important component of attracting and retaining staff.

Rice Warner now have a 45% female staff gender balance. 

But, the process to achieve this wasn’t just a simple re-write of existing internal policies, Rice Warner pursued an 18-month period of correspondence and negotiations with the Australian Human Rights Commission which involved providing substantial evidence to demonstrate the disadvantages that women face, including complex actuarial modelling.  Ultimately, they deemed the initiative to be a special measure under the Sex Discrimination Act.

Now that the precedent has been set with potential legal barriers overcome, there is no reason why the majority of Australian businesses shouldn’t follow suit.  There is no question that women’s superannuation balances are behind those of men and we all know why that is.  It is also true that the superannuation contribution cap greatly inhibits a woman’s ability to catch up, even if she had the means to do so.  But, measures like the one that Rice Warner have introduced go some way towards re-dressing this imbalance.

One of the key objectives of the Institute’s Diversity and Inclusion working group is to provide information and inspiration to enable and encourage change.  The Institute itself has driven international surveys and reports around this specific issue, and advised government on the development of improved retirement income policy.

However, what Rice Warner has shown us is that it is also possible to make change at grass roots level, changes that will directly benefit your female employees, and society as a whole. Large Institutions by way of large powerful cultures, develop ‘group think’ (explored here) which in its most negative form has resulted in bad behaviour as highlighted by the Royal Commission, but what if we encouraged ‘group think’ in a positive way?  We state that it is ‘standard business practice’ to provide women with additional superannuation and flexible working benefits as Rice Warner has done? 

We are getting towards 5000 members of the Institute at all levels of experience and qualification, and if each member were to suggest to their Manager and HR that their organisation consider bringing in similar benefits for their female employees, we might just be able to move mountains.



Podcast with Michael Rice

Last week, the Institute released a podcast with Michael Rice, interviewed by Public Policy Advisor John McLenaghan. Listen in to hear about Michael’s mentors, his career journey, thoughts on the challenges facing the profession, and his firm’s nomination for ‘Employer of the Year’.

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