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Holden pledges gender-equal workforce by 2022

Aussie car maker pushing for gender-balanced workplace within five years.

Australia's oldest car company, Holden, has pledged to balance its gender books by 2022, with chairman and managing director Mark Bernhard saying the Melbourne-based company wants to achieve "gender equality" in five years.

"We have so many talented employees at Holden, and after attracting more women applicants in 2016 than in 2015 and 2014 combined, we are now at 27 per cent of our corporate workforce represented by women," said Mr Bernhard in a statement. 

"We now need to aggressively work to further improve. That's why today we are announcing it is our goal to have a gender-balanced workforce within five years. To attract the best minds, both male and female, to build a successful future for our company."

It's a bold goal. Currently, Holden says that 27 per cent of its total work force of approximately 1100 people (across its headquarters, engineering and design departments, regional offices and spare parts operation, but excluding manufacturing staff) is female, while 30 per cent of senior managers in the business are women.

It's also worth pointing out that the company prides itself on a culture where, in its words, a pay gap does not exist, thanks to "explicit policies" designed to prevent it.

Holden is currently repositioning itself for a future as a vehicle importer, rather than a manufacturer, with its last remaining plant in Adelaide closing later this year. Some 1000 manufacturing worker jobs will go when the plant shuts down for the final time on October 20.

The car industry has typically been a male-dominated one across the board, though Holden has its own example of top end female leadership in Mary Barra, who is the chief executive officer of General Motors, the owners of Holden.

There has yet to be a female CEO at Holden, however, despite opening its headquarters and first manufacturing plant in Fishermens Bend in 1936.

The company is home to a number of talented female engineers and designers, but it's usually males who have been the leads on major projects from the company, including the design and manufacture of the Commodore, the rebirth of the Monaro and other, similarly high-profile jobs.

The company has recently drafted in top female execs from other industries, as well as promoting from within its own ranks. For example, the new director of dealer excellence, Joanne Stogiannis, has been with the company for 20 years.

"Staying in an organisation that allows you to grow and progress and develop in various roles that Holden allows me to do," she said.

"Our company is made up of a diverse group of people from all walks of life and that's what makes working at Holden so fulfilling," said Mr Bernhard. 

"I hope that our stance on this and other social issues can be an example for others to create a bright and inclusive future for Australia."