Championing equality to drive global growth

When the global pandemic wiped out its sales pipeline, The Dream Collective quickly pivoted.

Seizing the momentum of change happening in workplaces around the world, this diversity and inclusion consultancy worked with clients to drive bold change. This has led to a clear response to International Women’s Day: that one day is not enough.

The impact of COVID-19 on work has been far-reaching. Almost everyone has been affected in some way – but data shows that there has been a disproportionate effect on women. 

The Dream Collective’s Senior Product Lead, Lyndal Hamwood, points to Australian Bureau of Statistics data showing that childcare and domestic duties have increased. And they’ve fallen more on women. 

“As a result, women are taking leave from work, reducing their hours, having conversations around flexibility which are getting rebuffed, and being forced to leave the workforce – all in much larger numbers than men,” says Lyndal. “And we’re hearing this throughout our client conversations too.”

Driving female representation

Founded in 2012 by Sarah Liu, The Dream Collective helps companies around the world to drive long-term, sustainable change in female representation in the corporate landscape.

Beyond Australia, it has a presence in Tokyo, Shanghai and Singapore. And it’s worked with high-profile businesses including Google, AWS, Adobe and Salesforce. 

When COVID-19 hit, The Dream Collective lost 100% of its pipeline almost overnight – around $500,000 of projected revenue. Diversity and inclusion budgets were cut as businesses focused on survival. 

Transforming the corporate landscape

Rather than panicking and slashing costs, Sarah and her team observed how the world was changing.

Within just four weeks, The Dream Collective developed and launched the ‘She Pivots’ program. This four-part online workshop aims to re-skill and up-skill professional women whose work has been affected by COVID-19. It helps prepare them for career transitions and job opportunities with career partners including Google, Canva, Datacom and AWS.

The company also created a new offering called ‘100 Days to 50/50’.  This campaign builds on the momentum of change caused by the pandemic, challenging organisations to quickly achieve gender-balanced leadership. It’s based on research by The Dream Collective that found companies led by a gender-equal management team outperformed other companies during COVID-19.

“We used these findings to challenge the notion that progress ‘takes time’,” says Lyndal. “The entire world changed the way it worked almost overnight. COVID taught us that nothing is impossible.”

In just six months, The Dream Collective doubled its international business, thanks to its strong response to the pandemic. It retained all staff and has even hired four new team members. The team is now turning away clients that aren’t committed to meaningful, long-term change. 

Choosing to challenge

In line with their focus on bold change, The Dream Collective is embracing the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day – ‘Choose to Challenge’ – by challenging the event itself.

Rather than celebrating International Women’s Day, The Dream Collective is running a month-long celebration. Instead of focusing on what organisations are doing on the day, the team will celebrate year-round initiatives. And they’re championing the hashtag #IWDED – ‘International Women’s Day Every Day’.

“The premise of International Women’s Day is to bring awareness to the unique challenges women face, and that has merit,” says Lyndal. “But if you are only discussing gender equality on this one day, and forgetting about it the other 364, then your efforts are tokenistic.

“That’s why we now only support businesses that take a thorough, considered, long-term approach to challenging and changing the gender equality landscape. “The reason why The Dream Collective is still here is that gender inequality is so deeply ingrained. One day or one workshop isn’t going to change that. We need to actively, strategically and sustainably move towards change.”

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