Pictured left to right: Villa Maria staff, Leonie Mills (Team Leader in Community Services), Lisa Robinson (Team Leader/Senior Case Manager in Community Services), and Deb Cook (Team Leader, Disability Services Gateway Wantirna) outside RMIT, where they completed their Diploma of Management in 2009, fully paid for by Villa Maria.

Eight aged care providers – all not-for-profit organisations – are among the 98 organisations to achieve Employer of Choice for Women (EOCFW) status for 2011.

The EOCFW citation is awarded by the Commonwealth to non-government organisations with more than 100 employees that have demonstrated they have policies and practices supporting women across the organisation, achieving positive outcomes for both women and the business. 

Among the aged care recipients of this year’s awards were two large Victorian based providers, Benetas and Villa Maria, both headed by female CEOs.  For Benetas it is the sixth consecutive year the organisation has received the award while the citation is a first for Villa Maria.

Benetas CEO, Sandra Hills said the EOWA citation was an endorsement of the organisation’s female-friendly work practices.

“To be a recipient of this fantastic accolade for six years running reflects Benetas’ ongoing efforts to attract, support and promote our female staff. It also demonstrates our commitment to creating a workplace that encourages diversity, values potential and develops our people.” 

Ms Hills said Benetas understood the need to be flexible to retain and attract the very best staff.

“As the Australian population ages, the aged care industry is set to face significant workforce issues over the next 10 years.  Providing greater flexibility for our female staff to meet their family needs while also supporting their ongoing professional development is vital for us. It’s the only way we’ll be able to meet the increasing needs for our services, now and into the future,” Ms Hills said. 

Villa Maria CEO, Valerie Lyons said she was “extremely proud” to receive the title, which complimented Villa Maria’s status as a Fair and Flexible Employer by the Victorian Government for the past two consecutive years.

Ms Lyons said Villa Maria “walked the talk” as a gender equitable workplace, with nine out of 13 members of its Executive Leadership Management Team being female.  

“Villa Maria has long been passionate about creating an equitable, supportive and innovative workplace for all of our 950 staff. However I am particularly excited that we are now formally known as a place of work in which women can confidently climb the career ladder knowing they are fully supported,” Ms Lyons said.

A competitive market
People Services General Manager, Helen McPhee said Villa Maria realised that one of the best ways to attract, recruit and retain skilled women in a highly competitive market is to be recognised as being an employer of choice.  

“Whether they are nurses, personal carers, occupational therapists, disability support workers, educationalists or business administration staff, we’ve worked hard for many years to ensure each of our staff members, regardless of gender, has equal opportunities within the organisation and support to achieve their career goals,” said Ms McPhee.

“At Villa Maria we also understand that a woman’s most important role is often that of being a wife, mother, grandparent, sister or friend. We’re proud of the innovative and flexible strategies in place which have enabled female staff to balance their work and family commitments,” Ms McPhee said.

Villa Maria employees, Leonie Mills, a team leader in community services; Lisa Robinson, a team leader/senior case manager in community services; and Deb Cook, team leader, Disability Services Gateway Wantirna, all pictured above, were fully supported by Villa Maria to complete a Graduate Diploma of Management at Melbourne’s RMIT.

Lisa and Deb are both currently taking maternity leave. Leonie, who works with older people in the community helping to deliver aged care packages, said she felt very supported by Villa Maria to maintain her work/life balance.

 “I look back on the opportunity to study at RMIT as one that not only enhanced my education and career within Villa Maria, but gave me the opportunity to network and form [new] friendships[….]  and to be able to continue to do the job that I love; caring for and supporting older people to remain living independently in their homes for as long as possible.”

In congratulating the 98 organisations that achieved EOWA Employer of Choice for Women status for 2011, EOWA Acting Director, Mairi Steele, said there was still some way to go before gender equality at work was achieved.

“While we are delighted at the success of the 98 EOCFW organisations, over 2,500 organisations report to EOWA each year, so there is plenty of room for the remaining ones to step up to the mark.”

“With next week’s 100 year anniversary of International Women’s Day, we were hoping to see the number of organisations on the list reach 100, so this is a solemn reminder that there is still some way to go,” Ms Steele said. 

The list of EOCFW organisations can be accessed here on EOWA’s website and includes organisations from different industries and states and territories. 

Other providers recognised: 

Apart from Villa Maria and Benetas, six other aged care service providers were recognised in the ‘Health Care and Social Assistance’ category for Employer of Choice for Women (EOCFW) status for 2011:

CatholicCare Hunter-Manning

Calvary (Little Company of Mary Health Care Limited) 

Mercy Health and Aged Care Inc 

The Widdon Group

Uniting Aged Care Victoria and Tasmania

Warrigal Care 

Facts and figures:

– The majority of the 1,300 plus workforce at Benetas are female and a large proportion of permanent staff work part-time. 

– Of Villa Maria’s 950 staff, approximately 83 per cent are women

– In 2010, 18 Villa Maria staff completed their RMIT Graduate Diploma of Management, 16 of them female.

Some of Villa Maria’s equitable strategies and programs include:

Access to leadership development programs 

Career mentoring

A fully-paid Diploma of Management with RMIT (1 year)

Six weeks paid (or 12 weeks at half pay) maternity leave

Flexible start and finish times

Breastfeeding facilities

Child care and aged care referral programs; and

Job sharing and quality part time work

48/52 work arrangements

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