Nine evidence-backed ways to #BreakTheBias in your workplace


When it comes to women in the workplace, we hear a lot about barriers to leadership. But for new and expectant parents, there’s another barrier they come across much sooner in their careers: the parental wall.

“Our Government is working to build a fairer Victoria that values the paid and unpaid contributions of working parents by supporting gender equality interventions to affect real change. The Grace Papers’ program proves that when we support employers to value care and entrench flexibility, we can create a culture where careers and families thrive. “

 – Victorian Minister for Prevention of Family Violence, Aboriginal Affairs and Women Gabrielle Williams

When it comes to women in the workplace, we hear a lot about barriers to leadership – the glass ceiling, for example. But for new and expectant parents, there’s another barrier they come across much sooner in their careers: the parental wall.

The ‘maternal wall’ is a term coined to describe the drop in career success that female employees often experience either when they become pregnant, while on parental leave, or upon return to work after parental leave. But as we know, to focus our solutions solely on women is to fuel the bias rather than break it. It’s why our solutions at Grace Papers are about dismantling the ‘Parental Wall’. 

In partnership with The Office for Women (Vic) and Macquarie Business School, we set out to prove what works when it comes to gender bias and parenting. And while the insights and recommendations may be specific to the Victorian Public Service, the insights are applicable to multiple players and organisations.

It was a strategic shift for us here at Grace Papers: we’ve never been simply interested in implementing our program or tools per se.  But what we’ve learnt is that one of the biggest barriers to companies’ succeeding at flexibility and inclusion is a lack of data and evidence – so we’re increasingly evolving our platform and work in a way that can better support the workplace of the future.

Some of the most interesting things the data (measured against 16 key gender equality indicators) has taught us is that:

  • When employees have access to programs like GP, they gain greater clarity in their career vision; of the need to plan; particularly as family or life circumstances change ;

  • That confidence is by far the biggest and most positive increase among any of the measures tracked;

  • This finding is not just limited to parental leave – it’s any career issue including how to ask for flexible work with confidence – showing that Grace Papers improves gender workplace gender equality and psychological safety, ensuring that careers, parenting and ambition can thrive.


The case for evidence in programs designed to prevent inequality

The key takeaway is that workers may want flexibility and employers worldwide may be responding, but we also have to understand impact:  It’s not enough for companies to say: “We have a flex or parental leave program” – we have to know whether it’s the right program, and solving for the right problem. We need to address the #ParentalBias & discrimination that the Human Rights Commission found impacts almost 50 per cent of mothers and 25% of fathers if we want to retain top talent. For the research shows that most will not lodge a complaint, they were simply more likely to resign.

Grace Papers gender equality interventions, as validated in these research findings, addresses the parental wall, working with clients to create systematic and cultural strategies to authorise and execute a culture of flexibility and inclusion for working parents and carers. Here are some of our top tips to #BreakTheBias for parents in your workplace: 

  1. Set targets that overcome biases.

  2. Hold leaders personally responsible for structural gender injustice

  3. Empower those who have most to gain through coaching and education – and leave no woman – regardless of her race, disability, religion or sexual orientation behind.

  4. Sponsor the success and promotion of their talent.

  5. Engage millennial dads to disrupt the traditional stereotypes.

  6. Believe that keeping in touch is a shared accountability between the parental leaver and their people leader.

  7. Introduce policies to close the gap in retirement savings.

  8. Interrogate their systems for gender bias.

  9. Normalise workplace flexibility to remove stigma

Want to learn more? Join us in for our International Women’s Day series of events and read more here