For Jane Michie, BHP Global Head of Tax, inclusion and diversity is about flexible work arrangements and being a passionate, visible advocate for change.
Working flexibly means different things to different people and I think it’s important to recognise that it doesn't just mean working part time and it’s not just for women with children. It’s about getting something that works for you and your own personal circumstances at different points in your life.
Flexibility has meant different things to me at different times of my life.
Before children, I’d take chunks of unpaid leave and go backpacking through different countries. I’ve always had the travel bug and so it was a way of keeping me happy and in the same workplace. And usually, after three months away, I’d come back ready and refreshed for work.
Then I had children, two sons who are now aged 11 and nine, and my need for flexibility changed, according to my circumstances.
When the kids were little, I worked part time and also worked flexibly to manage the hours I was in the office. For example, I had the flexibility to come in a bit later in the mornings after childcare drop-off and leave early some days to do pick-up, plus also the flexibility to attend events during the day, such as their Christmas concerts. The impact it has on your kids when you go to these events is huge.
The boys are now older and my partner has taken on the role of primary carer. While I recognise that I don’t have the same ‘juggle’ that some parents have when both of them are working, I still work flexibly so I can be constantly engaged in my children’s lives – to be present to attend school events and work around school hours when I need to. I also work flexibly to help me manage my work flow commitments and fatigue – this includes working from home periodically which helps me catch up on work items (mostly emails!) and gives me the time and space to step back, reflect and think. In addition, some days I come into the office later and leave early so that I can take calls with overseas team members from home.
As a senior leader at BHP, I have to do my part to help create the culture whereby flexible work arrangements are seen as being an option that can be available to all of us.
Consequently, I recognise not only do I have to support flexible work arrangements and demonstrate this by ‘walking the talk’, but I also have to be public about it. Because, by being public, what I’m saying is, ‘yes, this is what I’m doing because it’s acceptable; therefore, you should feel that it’s acceptable for you to do it as well’. So when I do work flexibly, I am vocal and visible about it.
Another of my passions is creating a work environment where you feel comfortable bringing your whole self to work – you don’t feel judged for being different, you are included for who you are. And my visible commitment to this is wearing my lanyard.
It’s a gaudy piece of shiny bling that comes with an age appropriate label for children aged six and above! I wear it to make a public statement that I support bringing your whole self to work. And it’s been a great conversation starter!
We can have all the policies in place, such as hiring and flexible work arrangements, but unless we get the right culture to support them, they are nothing more than pieces of paper. So I want to play my part in changing the Company’s culture.