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WPP AUNZ has unveiled 50:50 gender diversity targets for senior management by 2021 with interim chief executive John Steedman calling the move “a business imperative”.

“Diversity is not a women’s issue, it is a business imperative. It demands all of us to be smarter, more open and optimistic about our future. Any leader appointment is based on ability; however, we will ensure that we have a strong pipeline of diverse candidates when filling these senior roles,” said Steedman. 

The announcement is part of ongoing work by the organisation to create a workforce that is diverse, balanced, and inclusive. While WPP AUNZ has introduced internal mentoring programs, upgraded parental leave policies and joined diversity councils in Australia and New Zealand, Steedman acknowledged there is still a lot more work to be done.

“We are absolutely committed to building a more inclusive and diverse group of companies, and this latest initiative is a fundamental step to ensure that we have the depth and breadth of thinking that we need as our industry continues to transform," he said. 

“Whilst diversity is so much more than gender, we do have a gender imbalance at the senior levels with 39% of the senior roles currently being held by women across WPP AUNZ. We are committed to changing the gender imbalance with this target.” 

The WPP stalwart has called on other industry leaders to join in pushing for greater inclusion.

In recent years, WPP AUNZ launched a mentoring program, Walk the Talk, to provide women with the tools to rise into senior roles at the organisation. It also revamped its parental leave policy to provide up to 16 weeks paid salary depending on the individual’s length of employment with the company. 

WPP AUNZ said it is also employing diversity strategies for its recruitment programs such as Career Seekers, which works with asylum seeker and refugee interns; Career Trackers, for indigenous and Torres Strait Islander recruitment; and Talent Rise, which represents marginalised youth.

“The rationale for all these programs is simple; every person, regardless of their age, caring responsibilities, cultural background, disability, gender, Indigenous background, sexual orientation and socio-economic background deserves to feel like they have a workplace where they belong. Where they are valued for their thinking and contribution.  And this sense of belonging will ultimately result in a better business, and better industry for us all,” said Steedman.