Christine Holgate doesn’t mince words. Speaking on a panel discussion at Qantas magazine’s Think. event, presented in association with LSH Auto Australia, the CEO of Toll Global Express shoots down the notion that there’s a genuine talent shortage in the Australian labour market.
She says the problem could be solved if leaders were to throw their recruiting net out much wider, to capture the true diversity of available candidates. If they were to do that in earnest, she argues, “We’d have no labour shortage in this country… and more women working full-time and more women participating in work.”
Holgate says there are myriad issues around women staying in or returning to the workforce, including a lack of paid parental leave and prohibitive childcare costs. “Australia has one of the lowest participation rates of women in the workforce of any OECD country and more than 50 per cent of them are working part-time.”
She also warns against the prevalence of workplace bullying and harassment and urges leaders to be alert to the issues in their own workplaces, in line with recommendations made by Sex Discrimation Commissioner Kate Jenkins in her Respect@Work report.
“Two out of five women are going to be bullied, harassed or assaulted while they’re at work. How is that right? It’s critically important that all 55 recommendations from Respect@Work are implemented.
“Australia’s new prime minister has called me and said he promised me it’s going to come in. I will be holding him to account because we need healthy, respectful workplaces. It’s good for everybody and it’s a critical part of getting more women into the workforce.”
Holgate says she’s “super excited”, believing that we’ve arrived at a golden moment for gender diversity. “Women are going to be like phoenixes arising,” she smiles. “We’re not anti-male – we are here to fuel your companies and help build economic growth.”
To that end, Holgate also sees enormous bottom-line benefits for businesses that find efficiencies while lowering their carbon footprint. It’s often about simply questioning the way things have always been done.
Since becoming the CEO of Toll Global Express in September 2021, Holgate has asked her staff for ideas. She is bringing the same transformative energy to Toll that she did at Australia Post, where she was CEO from 2017-2021, and before that as CEO and managing director of health supplements giant Blackmores, from 2008-2017.
“It’s not going to be a silver bullet,” she says of her mission to make Toll the most sustainable business of its ilk on the planet. “We will do it by addressing vans becoming electric and going to hydrogen. We’ll also do it by addressing real diversity issues and changing the way that we work.”
Holgate relates a recent emissions-reduction modelling project with a major retailer. “They had 10 vehicles going in every morning. They’d go in early in the morning, drop off new deliveries and go out empty. At night, 10 vehicles would go back to pick up stock and then go out empty. What I see is two journeys empty. So what about if we worked together? Dropped off and picked up at the same time?
“We haven’t even changed the fuel but if we get this to work, we will have reduced carbon emissions by 40-something per cent and we will have made significant reductions in the cost and supply chain. Win, win, win.”
Think. is a thought-leadership event and content series, presented by Qantas magazine and in association with LSH Auto Australia – the country’s leading Mercedes-Benz dealer group. Find out more about LSH Auto Australia.