Investing in progress: International Women’s Day at SMCT

08 March 2024
Operations Manager Katie Ward and Customer Care Consultant Isabelle Teeroovengadum appreciate SMCT's support and investment in their career development.

Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (SMCT) is proud to have women represented across every facet and level of our organisation, and we see it as a privilege to be able to support all genders in their personal and professional growth. Fostering a culture of inclusion and investing in talent is key to developing strong teams.

This is something that Customer Care Consultant Isabelle Teeroovengadum has appreciated during her nine years at SMCT. “I have been lucky enough that I have had a lot of women leaders over the years,” she says.

“Any roadblock I might have faced over the years, I had their support and guidance to work through.”

This International Women’s Day, we celebrate the journeys of team members like Isabelle and Operations Manager Katie Ward who help make us stronger together and reflect on SMCT’s work to promote gender equality in the workplace with our Gender Equality Action Plan

Investing in our future

At SMCT, there is a balance of men and women in leadership roles – as of December 2023, women made up 51% of our people leaders. This is no accident, as it is important to us that we have the contributions of all people’s unique perspectives.

Operations Manager Katie Ward has been at SMCT since 2017 and is thriving in a leadership role. In the last seven years, Katie gained extensive experience managing projects across nine sites in burials and horticulture. She is currently Operations Product Owner within the Revolve Project, a new customer data management platform soon to be rolled out. Through mentoring and taking part in SMCT’s Enterprise Leadership Program, she has been continuously supported to develop new capabilities in leadership – working closely with SMCT’s executive leadership team.  

“I have participated in some of SMCT’s biggest programs of work with the full support of those inside and outside these projects,” she says. 

“Having SMCT invest in my journey to understanding my self-leadership – an ongoing discovery – has meant I can be a better leader for others and for the organisation.”  

Katie credits her current success and satisfaction with work to SMCT’s interest in investing in internal talent, having seen the impacts of the ‘glass ceiling’ in other industries. 

Through her career, she noticed places where corporate activities were ‘divided by gender’ with men strengthening their relationships with mostly male senior leadership at activities such as golf games and others that were less inclusive, taking place after hours or on weekends.

She says that these practises “can look well-intended or innocent at first glance, but they were subtle and pervasive roadblocks that were culturally ingrained at these organisations and were absolutely gender related.”

A flexible culture that embraces and encourages

Katie knows that some might see the desire for flexibility as an indication that a person is less ambitious. “The reality is, in most cases, that this couldn’t be further from the truth,” she says.

“Those seeking flexible work arrangements are often as ambitious and as focused on their careers, just better jugglers.”

At SMCT, our commitment to providing the flexibility and support that our people need to thrive and reach their potential is a critical aspect of our GEAP. For many parents, juggling work and family is a challenge and we look to address this through a range of formal and informal flexible work options as just a few options that can be explored to suit the individual and their role. We aim to promote these arrangements to all genders, normalising flexibility in the workplace.

As a parent, Isabelle Teeroovengadum has benefitted from this. Between childcare duties and her own personal health scares, understanding from her leaders at SMCT have helped find a balance that works for her.

“I was given a lot of support at work to adjust my environment accordingly,” she says.

At SMCT, Isabelle has also been given the opportunity to develop additional capabilities beyond her main role as a Customer Care Consultant. She is a First Aider at the Bunurong Memorial Park (BMP) site and SMCT facilitates training to keep her certificates in First Aid and CPR up to date. Recently, she was also nominated to train her team in the Revolve Project.

Isabelle believes her success is largely due to the people around her and their culture of inclusion.

“I have had a good support network within my team and my leaders who have always been open to suggestions. Over the years I have shared my ideas, which they have embraced and encouraged,” she says.

Taking more steps towards change

SMCT strives to create a culture of excellence and equity for all genders. In addition to enhanced parental leave and structures that promote inclusivity, we are committed to ensuring women have the support they need to continue to develop and succeed professionally.

One of the key indicators in SMCT’s GEAP is pay equity. Katie says she has seen friends at other organisations demoralised by the experience of seeing male colleagues paid at higher rates.

“More transparent reporting of pay gaps in organisations and greater accountability,” she says, is what is needed to see an end to this.

At SMCT, we are proud to have seen a significant reduction in our median pay gap, with a decrease from 6.7% in 2021 to 4.5% in 2023. We continue to conduct annual pay equity analysis to identify pay gaps or inequities and remedy them through a variety of means.

SMCT is endorsed by Work180 which supports and celebrates organisations that are committed to supporting women’s careers. We are proud to be recognised for creating a diverse and equitable workplace.

Diversity and inclusion focus groups, community engagement, Gender Impact Assessments, and a wide range of programs to promote inclusion, talent retention and flexible working all contribute to creating a culture of welcome and support in which all our people can thrive. Support is available through our Employee Assistance Program and we run financial education programs to inform the right working arrangements for our team members, including Superannuation for Women. We will introduce a transition to retirement program that will harness the talent of our older workforce as they prepare to exit the workforce.

In the meantime, we would like to say a very special thank you to Isabelle and Katie for their contributions, and to all those dedicated to strengthening equality, inclusion, and diversity at SMCT. Happy International Women’s Day!

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