People Measures, established in 2006, is an Australian-owned firm of organisational psychologists and development experts with a passion for helping people and organisations realise their potential. People Measures created their award-winning Viva Energy Female Leadership Program to address gender biases and establish a pipeline of female leaders at Viva Energy Australia. The program was designed and delivered by a team of organisational psychologists.
Formerly a part of the Shell downstream business, Viva Energy Australia has more than 1200 staff – most with a background in engineering and technical skills, 26 per cent of who are women. Internal research found many of the female staff felt there were barriers to their chances of progressing to senior leadership roles. Under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Scott Wyatt, Viva Energy made a genuine commitment to gender equality within its leadership ranks and overall workforce. Internal targets of 50 per cent gender equality in hiring each year were set, as well as a goal of 40 per cent female representation in all levels of management by 2020, and a mandate that 50 per cent of the senior leadership group should be women by the same year.
People Measures’ evidence-based program focused on preparing female staff to take on more complex and senior roles. People Measures’ Frances Feenstra said, “When designing the program, we were clear the purpose was not to 'fix' women and train them to 'fit' into male leadership structures. We wanted to encourage them to find their own confidence and voices.” This was achieved through a well-designed workshop program that made use of psychometric assessment and development planning. Viva Energy’s participating women were pushed to explore their strengths, opportunities, confidence and their individual sense of leadership purpose. One participant described the program as “Challenging and confronting, but eye opening. A great opportunity to reflect and improve.” Another said, “Really worthwhile program that has stretched each one of us.”
The results have been significant. A year after the first group of 12 women completed the program, five have moved into more senior roles. Line managers and senior managers within the organisation report that they feel more educated about gender issues while program participants have also been able to engage with Viva Energy’s CEO and senior managers to discuss their ideas for the company. The 12 participants have formed their own strong peer support network, while also working through comprehensive development plans to improve their chances of progressing as leaders.
The successful program was expanded in 2018, as a further 22 potential female leaders took part. Viva Energy’s reputation in the male-dominated petroleum and resources industry has been enhanced and the company has built genuine respect as a champion of female leadership. They are now the recipient of all the unique and diverse qualities those leaders have to bring.