Committed to equality: achieving a gender-balanced workforce

Holden ambassador Amna Karra-Hassan (centre) chats with Steve Won, Category Manager – CAS, VSSM, and Emilia Vavala, Indirect Purchasing Student Intern about diversity and inclusion at Holden.


Within five years, Holden will have a gender balanced organisation – an equal number of men and women in our corporate business. That’s a tall order in the automotive industry and a bold move within corporate Australia, but it’s a commitment Managing Director Mark Bernhard made to the Holden team during International Women’s Day celebrations in March.

Addressing an audience at Holden HQ, Mark, together with Yvonne Bowyer, a leading gender equality consultant in the automotive industry, said that as an Australian icon, Holden has a responsibility to reflect the communities we operate in.

“We know the commercial rationale of becoming more gender balanced, including over 80% of vehicle buying decisions being influenced by women,” said Mark. “But, we also have a social responsibility to help move our country forward by lending our voice and influence to issues that matter.

“I want Holden to be a leader; a leader in our industry, a leader in society, a leader who can change behaviours. If we don’t do it, who will?”

So how will we get there? By taking personal responsibility to eradicate the gender stereotypes and biases that stand in the way of all genders thriving at Holden. Mark made his responsibilities clear: “I’ll be stepping up beside women to achieve change, treating women’s representation in leadership as a significant business priority, focusing on gender reporting and putting plans in place to make improvements. I will communicate to our partners how important gender balance is to us and will disrupt the status quo, ensuring that if we’re not 50/50 in a meeting, on a panel or in a board room, I ask why. I’ll also ensure we’re hiring and providing critical experiences for women and men, and will be focusing on flexibility – not what can be done flexibly, but what can’t, as well as dismantling barriers for carers of any gender.”

Mark further implored the women and men of Holden to join together in creating a workplace that draws strength from equality: “I have two daughters and I’ve been determined to help raise them to become strong, independent women who can become anything they want without allowing gender stereotypes or bias to stand in their way. I’m equally determined that everyone at Holden takes up this same mission.”

Today Holden stands at 27% women in our corporate workforce. We have some distance to go to 50/50, but we’re making progress. More women applied to work at Holden in 2016, than in 2014 and 2015 combined, and we’ve welcomed more women into our workforce in the last three months than in the 12 months prior. As we work to shake off the ‘blokey’ reputation our brand has been saddled with for years, and continue to implement policies and practices that encourage all genders to succeed at Holden, we take another step closer to equality.