Inclusive Employer Case Study: City of Sydney

Case study City of Sydney. DCA's 2023-2024 list of inclusive employers

Inclusive Employer 2023-2024: City of Sydney

In 2023, City of Sydney was one of many organisations who participated in DCA’s Inclusive Employer Index, an in-depth organisation-wide survey on inclusion and diversity metrics. The organisation’s Index results surpassed the national benchmark, distinguishing them as one of DCA’s 2023-2024 Inclusive Employers. In this case study, City of Sydney share insights on their D&I journey thus far. 

We started our D&I journey about 15 years ago with gender equity. At that time, local government was a very male-dominated industry, and there were very few women in leadership positions.  

We worked systematically on gender until we achieved some results, before tackling LGBTIQ+ inclusion, followed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employee inclusion and disability inclusion. 

The advice we would give to other organisations starting out is to recognise this type of change takes time and must be embedded into the ‘machinery’ of the organisation’s systems, behaviours and processes for the change to become durable.  

If diversity, equity and inclusion efforts are embedded into core systems, it is less likely that hard-won achievements can slip backwards, if for example, key D&I champions leave the organisation.

Because we started this work first, our work towards gender equity has delivered the most tangible outcomes to date. 

The number of women employed by the City of Sydney has grown substantially, from 29 per cent in 2005 to 43 per cent of the total workforce in 2022.  

We focused on removing barriers for women in male-dominated occupations and for women gaining leadership positions. Two thirds of our senior leadership team are now women, and half of our team managers are women.  

We have implemented many policies and programs to advance gender equity including:  

  • early work to support women experiencing domestic violence (we were one of the foundation organisations to gain White Ribbon workplace accreditation back in 2013) 
  • in 2018, we paid superannuation for up to 52 weeks of parental leave (this can contribute to closing the gender wealth gap as women accumulate on average half the superannuation of their male counterparts) 
  • in 2019, we extended paid partner leave for non-primary carers from two weeks to four weeks, then further boosted it to six (leave for secondary carers supports them to take on a more active parenting role with newborn or adopted children) 
  • an active Women’s Staff Network, support for breastfeeding women, and mentoring programs.  

We were the first local government in Australia to publicly report on gender pay gaps and are one of the very few Australian organisations, public or private, to consistently achieve a positive pay gap in favour of women.  

For six years in a row, we have defied Australian trends with a pay gap in favour of women. 

Our 2022 gender pay review, shows our gender pay gap (total remuneration) was 5.3 per cent, in favour of women. 

Because we know that not all women (or men) experience the workplace equally, we are now focussing on intersectionality. Our focus has moved to understand the work experiences and career opportunities of women from culturally diverse backgrounds, women with a disability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

Measurement has made a big impact over time. Adding quality diversity data fields into key HR systems has improved our reporting and allowed us to track progress (and lack of progress) over time. We use DCA’s guidance on diversity measurement such as their Counting Culture framework.  

With this in place it’s then easy to determine leadership composition or promotional rates by diversity dimension, or access to development opportunities.  

We also add diversity fields into our staff satisfaction survey, and other staff surveys, so we can understand the varied experiences of our diverse employees.  

Another simple but highly effective initiative is our candidate-led recruitment process. We implemented this for candidates with a disability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates. We linked this to a pool of positions that we created by combining unused part-time FTE across the organisation. Instead of advertising for roles in particular departments, this meant we could match interested candidates with any job across the Council. We partnered with community organisations to do this, and it has resulted in the recruitment of more diverse employees. 

Read more about DCA's Inclusive Employer Index and how you can participate