Establishing a gender equality committee or council

Why form a committee?

Establishing a gender equality committee (or council) is a key way to drive change towards a more diverse and inclusive culture. It demonstrates an organisational commitment to issues of workplace gender equality.

Your committee may function independently or form part of a broader workplace diversity and inclusion committee. While committees will vary based on context, they are typically tasked with:

  • advocating for, championing and raising awareness of gender equality issues, both internally and externally
  • developing and implementing a gender diversity strategy
  • ensuring leadership and accountability for various initiatives within the gender diversity strategy
  • monitoring the progress and impact of the gender equality strategy
  • ensuring alignment between the gender equality strategy and the corporate and HR strategies.

Establishing a committee is also a requirement in the WGEA Employer of Choice for Gender Equality citation.

How to establish a committee

Develop a charter or terms of reference

It’s important to have clear objectives, roles and responsibilities from the beginning. A charter or terms of reference can help clarify the diversity committee’s direction and remit and serve as a reference for members and the wider workplace.

Existing online resources suggest that a diversity committee's charter or terms of reference should cover the following:

  • Vision/Mission
  • Objectives
  • Membership, including roles and responsibilities
  • Criteria, requirements and time frames for membership
  • Operational procedures
  • Reporting protocols
  • Governance and accountability, including resourcing.[1][2]

Appoint members

To form an effective and representative committee, you’ll need to consider size, member composition and your chairperson. You may wish to develop clear criteria to guide this process.

Committee size

The size of your committee will depend on the size and nature of your organisation and the objectives of the committee. Committees with a governance role should be a manageable size to efficiently make decisions. Larger organisations may consider setting up more than one committee or representative group.

Committee composition

It's critical to have the right people involved in your committee.

Diversity Council Australia's guide to establishing a diversity and inclusion council[3] recommends that members include:

  • senior leadership, to ensure executive support
  • diverse representation, to reflect principles of diversity and inclusion, including gender-balanced representation, as well as representation from across the organisation
  • human resources personnel
  • staff with relevant knowledge and credibility
  • external experts, to offer new perspectives.

It is common practice to invite staff to join a committee through an open expression of interest, using selection criteria to guide appointments.

Appointing a chairperson

Ideally, committees are chaired, or co-chaired, by members of senior leadership, such as the CEO, COO or CFO. This demonstrates that members of leadership are visible champions for diversity and helps ensure that change is supported and driven from 'the top'.

Manage the operations and administration

Your charter should outline the procedures for managing your committee, including:

  • the frequency of meetings
  • communication and reporting protocols

governance arrangements.

 

[1] Diversity Council Australia, (2019). Setting up a D&I Council

[2] Diversity Best Practices, (2019). Diversity and Inclusion Councils

[3] Diversity Council Australia, (2019). Setting up a D&I Council