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Fiona Johnston



Why did you choose to become a member of CEOs for Gender Equity?

I have the incredible privilege of leading a learning community of girls and staff that have been passionate about closing the gender opportunity gap for over 100 years. St Hilda’s students are empowered, highly educated and committed to making a positive contribution to the world through their professional and personal endeavours. As the leader of my community, and in a position where I can use my voice and messaging to promote gender equity and inclusiveness, I see significant alignment with the vision and values of CEOs for Gender Equity and what motivates St Hilda’s in its quest to educate the next generation of women leaders.

As principal/CEO of St Hilda’s, I believe that being a role model for the students in our care, employees and leading by example is key. I believe my membership will open up new conversations, provide access to the latest data on gender equity, and highlight insights into local, national and global trends that I can share with my community, knowing they share my passion for gender equity. It will also provide me with insight to better understand the workforce our students will be entering; I’m conscious that our majority female-led community does not reflect the reality of many contemporary workplaces.

Why is it important for other CEOs to get behind CEOs for Gender Equity?

The associations that CEOs choose to partner with send a message to their organisation about what the CEO is passionate about and committed to. CEOs are typically extremely busy and tend to only commit themselves to the organisations that are truly making a difference and have a vision and values that align to them personally and professionally.

What were your first steps for improving gender equity in the workplace?

Our first step was to critically review our gender data from the Council level all the way through to our casual appointments. We currently have 79% of our workforce that identifies as female. For our professional workforce (the vast majority of whom are our teaching staff) the pay gap is minus 2.6%, therefore slightly favouring females. At a Council level, 7 out of 11 council members are female. At the Executive level, 6 out of 10 executive members are female. At Senior leadership, 100% of our leaders are female.

Our second step was providing workplace conditions per our Enterprise Agreement (EA). Our teaching staff and operational staff are paid according to the EA; this ensures equal pay for equal roles. Gender plays no role in how we pay people, who we recruit or how we promote our staff.

Our third step was looking at our recruitment processes to ensure that our advertisements and messaging promoted gender equity. We work hard to attract males to an all-girls learning environment, knowing that a balance of role models is important for the development of our students!

What are some of your latest achievements in gender equity?

Girls' schools open up opportunities for women to progress more seamlessly to middle, senior, and executive leadership positions, if they have the skills and attributes for the role. I am proud to be in a position where I can open opportunities for women and support them in achieving their leadership ambitions. In partnership with my Director of People and Culture, I can make decisions to support part-time and flexible arrangements for employees upon request. This is empowering and rewarding.

Ultimately, St Hilda’s is preparing our girls to take on leadership roles in organistions that are committed to gender equity. I know the next generation of graduates will be outstanding ambassadors for this cause.

What ideas are you working on to drive gender equity now and in the future?

Raising awareness of the reality and challenges of gender equity beyond the school gates is key. When girls are educated in a girls’ school, being led by a majority female leadership team, and holding all of the leadership roles on the Student Council, they predominantly see females in leadership positions. They see women making decisions, leading teams and navigating challenging circumstances. They only see women leading. This will not be their reality when they graduate and commence their tertiary studies and, later, enter the workforce. My team and I are constantly working on how we can best prepare our students for this reality.

St Hilda’s proudly supports its staff in leadership professional development, and membership to aspiring educational leaders’ associations (and will continue to do this). It’s in our DNA to grow female leaders in education. Like all organisations, we are engaged in conversations with staff around flexible working hours and how schools might consider addressing this.


CEO Conversation.


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