Case Studies, Business & Human Rights

ANZ Laos: Building Women Leaders

UN Global Compact Network Australia | March 8, 2017

ANZ Bank is one of Australia’s major banks, with almost 50,000 employees. Whilst its home markets are Australia and New Zealand, ANZ is a truly international bank with a diverse footprint across 34 markets. For ANZ, gender balancing the organisation is recognised as a business imperative, critical to achieving a key priority area within its Corporate Sustainability Framework, namely, to enable social and economic participation.

ANZ’s operation in Laos – which has a staff of 90 employees and provides international trade, transaction and markets products to its large regional and multinational corporate customers – has had a particular focus on gender diversity both in it is own business and across the Laos business community more broadly in an effort to implement some tangible change around this issue.

As part of the dynamic and growing ASEAN bloc, the Lao PDR is a country that is poised for economic growth, with GDP growth on average 6-7% YoY. The government of the Lao PDR has an ambitious agenda to progress from Least Developed Country Economic status by 2020 and has put gender empowerment firmly on its agenda as part of its National Socio-Economic Development Plan in order to achieve this.

Notwithstanding its prioritising gender empowerment, as a result of a relatively unsophisticated legal and regulatory framework, the government continues to struggle to set up a system to monitor, collect and analyse data relating to gender inequality. And whilst women make up a large percentage of the workforce, many economic and social challenges remain in order for women to progress to leadership roles both within the private sector and within government.

With this is mind, and in alignment with ANZ’s broader agenda to ensure equitable practices are being implemented across its business via initiatives like the Male Champions of Change, ANZ Lao’s Management took action to achieve material outcomes in helping achieve gender equality in its workplace and encouraging its female staff to become leaders.

The process for doing this was twofold.

First the business implemented material targets within its own operations around engaging female supply chain contractors and requiring female interviewees for all management roles above a certain level. It also introduced policies to implement flexible work practices, paid maternity and paternity leave (which went above local Laos requirements) and importantly endorsed the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles as part of its broader agenda to uplift women in the community.

The second was to actively support engagement of Laos female leaders locally and across ASEAN via organized awareness raising and technical assistance events. In conjunction with the Australian ASEAN council and Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, ANZ supported the implementation of 3 separate women in leadership events in 2016 with the aim of helping women in Laos and across ASEAN to build their business networks and learn key technical skills that would help them to grow their businesses and progress professionally.

“The most rewarding part of our focus on women’s empowerment has been the way our local Laos female leaders at ANZ have stepped up to embrace being leaders in their own community. Those staff have now gone on to achieve material outcomes for themselves as leaders independent of ANZ. Our Head of Compliance has become the first person in Laos to obtain gold standard international compliance ACAMs accreditation and our Head of International Banking has been recognized as a women of achievement by the UN. And I have also seen a material uplift in the number of women in our business who are interested in furthering their education and applying for scholarships which has been a fantastic outcome.”

“Whilst these issues will not be solved overnight, and there is still a great deal to be done at both a regulatory and practical level to ensure women achieve real parity in the workplace, I have been encouraged by the amount of support we have achieved both within ANZ and across the international and governmental community for these initiatives. The momentum behind the desire for change in achieving gender parity in our workplaces is there and is growing and I look forward to doing more at ANZ in Laos to be a part of that change.” Anna Green, CEO, ANZ Laos

Find out more about ANZ’s actions on gender equality here: http://www.anz.com/about-us/corporate-sustainability/employees/diversity-inclusion/gender/  and ANZ 2016 Corporate Sustainability Report

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UN Global Compact Network Australia