Long before the coronavirus struck, Stephanie Donnelly used flexible working arrangements to juggle raising her family and her high-flying career.
Leading a team of 200 people across Australia and New Zealand for engineering firm AECOM, she was able to base herself in Canberra close to family and manage her workload alongside the other commitments in her life.
"So I have an Australia New Zealand role, but I'm based in Canberra. And I think that's a reflection on AECOM's flexible work policy that allows me to live in a non-major city in Australia and still have a significant role in the in the company. That's a personal trust," she said.
"It also means for me being able to work on my time. So for instance, today as a very small example, I have a proposal due at midday. I got up early, spent a couple of hours at home doing the work and then I've the time to take my kids to school and then come into the office, rather than, you know, holding strict hours between 8.30 and 5."
She's not alone.
The latest annual snapshot from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency showed access to flexible work arrangements was improving before the pandemic hit.
The number of employers promoting flexible work rose to 75.9 per cent in 2018-19.
Workplace Gender Equality Agency director Libby Lyons said she was expecting even more workplaces to embrace flexible working arrangements next year.
"I think that there is a huge positive to come out of this pandemic, that employers for the first time have realised that employees can be trusted to work from home or work remotely, they can be trusted to ensure that they meet the outcomes of the job that their jobs dictate," Ms Lyons said.
There has been marked progress on other measures as well. For the first time since the agency began to collect data seven years ago, more than half (52.4 per cent) of employers now offer paid parental leave for primary carers, up three percentage points.
Around 46.4 per cent of employers also offer parental leave for secondary carers - an increase of 2.6 per cent.
However, Australian workplaces have gone backwards on action to close gender gaps in the workplace.
Men now out-earn women by $25,534 a year on average.
The proportion of employers taking action to reduce their gender pay gap fell by 6.1 percentage points to 54.4 per cent.
This is despite more employers undertaking analysis to understand their pay gaps (up 1.7 points to 46.4 per cent).
Ms Lyons said the results were concerning.
"In that sense, we are going backwards," she said.
"If that continues our pay gap will not continue to decline, it will in fact increase as we saw happen during the GFC."
During the Global Financial Crisis, the gender pay gap rose three percentage points in two years.
"It took us 10 years to claw that back," Ms Lyons said.
"I'm really worried. We can't afford to go backwards. We've worked too hard to get where we are."
Only 5.7 per cent of employers set targets around the number of staff engaging in flexible work arrangements.
And while more men are taking paid parental leave as a primary carer, they still only accounted for 6.5 per cent of leave taken in 2018-19.
"I think the real issue here for employers is setting targets, particularly for men, to encourage them to take out paid parental leave, and also for more flexible work arrangements," Ms Lyons said.
"We know that if we can get more men working flexibly and more men taking paid parental leave, then that eases the burden of care for families on women, and that enables them to participate more fully in the workforce."
Stephanie Donnelly said culture matters. In the past year, the number of men taking paid parental leave at AECOM had doubled.
"The first conversation we have [with our male colleagues] when they're expecting is 'okay, well, when are you going on leave? How are we going to manage that? Make sure you make the most of it, you're not going to get this chance again," she said.
"It really is about a supportive culture. It's not seen as you taking time out. It's actually seen as a great opportunity."