Caroline Herbert, Head of Talent and Culture

We sat down with Caro for her take on what's changing - and what needs to change - for women in the workplace.

Caroline has worked in HR for over 20 years, starting her career at a London recruitment agency and quickly moving into corporate HR roles in a number of industries and continents. Just over two years ago, she and her family decided to leave Singapore to return to NZ – and we’re very glad she did.

So, why HR?

It’s a pretty varied role, with the opportunity to really understand how a business works. Most businesses are based largely on their people. Let’s face it: without people, there is usually no business. And working in HR allows you to understand the different levers that can be pulled to optimise the operation. I like to think I have a pretty rounded understanding of most areas of the organisations I’ve worked in, which can be fascinating.

What do you think has changed for women in the workplace since you started out?

The Boardroom and the Buck

I welcome the recent concentration on NZ’s gender pay gap, which has dropped from 14.0% in 2000 to 9.5% in 2020*. I’d like to think we’ll drop that 9.5% and hit zero in a lot less time than the 20 years it took to drop 4.5%. This is an issue we have definitely focused on at FCB NZ.

Across the board, we’re seeing a lot more women in senior roles. 20 years ago, a female member of senior management was something worth noting as the exception to the rule. It’s taken some time to get to the point we’re at now but I feel that momentum is building exponentially.

We’re definitely not there yet but awareness is growing and I’m confident we’re heading firmly in the right direction. Here at FCB, 57% of our senior management team is female.

Like a Girl”

Another welcome change is that we don’t feel obliged to behave differently in order to succeed at work. There was a time, not so long ago, when women felt they needed to act like a man, especially in senior roles, to be regarded as performing / delivering. I think qualities that are stereotypically feminine were undervalued back then. Now, we can all see how important these qualities are – things like emotional intelligence and empathy.

The onslaught of Covid-19 in particular has highlighted the importance of these qualities. Of course, men are perfectly capable of empathy and consideration too! But they are qualities that could, until quite recently, hinder a woman’s career journey. It’s great to see them being celebrated now.

The Home Front

Of course, progression in the workplace is only part of the equation, albeit a large one. In the home,  we’re shifting away from traditional roles, with two working parents or a stay-at-home Dad far more common. Traditional lines are blurred: who stays home when the kids are sick? It’s no longer always assumed that Mum will take the time.

Part time and jobshare options are also becoming far more commonplace. There was a time when jobshare was considered a bit weird – now it makes perfect sense for many roles. Again, there is some way to go on this one but we are seeing employers far less likely to avoid hiring women with small children as this cultural shift happens.

Balancing Act

In terms of work / life balance for women, we still have some work to do. Covid provided a huge challenge for women in this area. The ability to work from home became a double edged sword and the new skill of putting boundaries in place to clearly mark where work finishes and home life begins is still being mastered by many.

As women, we often feel responsible for more than our share of the load, so finding new ways of working sensibly is more important than ever. Especially as the new ‘hybrid’ way of working becomes more commonplace, we need to be kind to ourselves, understand our trigger points, set clear boundaries with our work and home lives, step back from perfectionism and sometimes – dare I say it – become a little selfish!  

*Source: 2021 Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission