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JB Hi-Fi profits are up but it wants more women in the business

Eloise Keating /

Electronics retail giant JB Hi-Fi will rethink its gender diversity policies, after revealing its policies have not been “as effective as intended” in boosting the number of women in its workforce.

While the ASX-listed company yesterday reported full-year net profit of $128.36 million for the 2014 financial year, a 10.29% increase on the previous reporting period, it also revealed in its financial reports that 39% of its workforce is female, compared to 40% in 2013.

Of the company’s senior management and executive teams, just 4% are women, or 1 in 23 employees, compared to 5% the year before.

And on the company’s board, just one out of seven directors is female.

While JB Hi-Fi set out a series of objectives in March 2012 to improve the diversity of its workforce, the company’s financial statements reveal there has been little movement in the stats since then.

There has been no change in the percentage of female to male regional managers between June 2012 and June 2014, and the percentage of female senior managers has declined from 9.5% in June 2012 to 4% in June 2014.

The objectives set out in 2012 included a review of employee pay to determine if any gender-based disparity existed; the development of part-time and flexible work practices, especially in relation to mothers returning to work from maternity leave; the appointment of women into roles traditionally filled by men, including car sound sales, hi-fi sales and IT; a reorganisation of store management structures to encourage more female store and regional managers; and a move to encourage female participation in leadership development programs.

But the company said on Monday low turnover of male staff in regional and senior management roles, as well as the “context of a male-dominated consumer electronics industry” has continued to present challenges.

In response, the JB board will review the company’s diversity objectives and revisit its plans to achieve them. Information about the revised objectives, plans and the company’s progress in meeting them will be included in the company’s 2015 annual report.

Richard Murray, who has recently taken over as chief executive from Terry Smart, told SmartCompany this morning workplace diversity is “a really serious issue” and one the company is committed to.

“The reality is we have low turnover [of staff] so while we embrace diversity, that shouldn’t come at the expense of our current workforce,” says Murray.

Murray says as a new chief executive, he feels he has a great opportunity to rethink the way JB Hi-Fi approaches diversity.

“How do we do diversity better and in a way that support’s JB’s great culture?” says Murray.

While Murray says the results may not change overnight, in the next five years he says he wants to see more talented women in the organisation, and a number of existing practices, including encouraging female workers to take on leadership roles, will help with that aim.

Diversity strategy and compliance consultant Prue Gilbert told SmartCompany it doesn’t appear that JB Hi-Fi had an ineffective strategy, but rather there was “a lack of understanding of its turnover” of employees.

“Organisations need to talent map with reference to the level of turnover expected at the various levels of the organisation,” says Gilbert.

“Otherwise, targets will not be attained and promotions simply to achieve targets in the context of a high-performing team will benefit nobody.”

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Eloise Keating

Eloise Keating is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Eloise was news editor at Books+Publishing, the trade press for the Australian book industry.

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