The recent 50|50 Future Leaders event held by Leaders in Heels in Sydney saw some of the country’s top leaders (male and female) discussing gender equality in the workplace.

The panel speakers were keen to share actions you can take today that will pave the way for a 50|50 future of equal gender representation in leadership roles.

Here they are:

ONE: ARTICULATE YOUR ASPIRATIONS

“Every woman should articulate her career aspirations in the workplace. Then, ask and encourage the next woman in your path to do the same.” Diana Ryall, AM Founder and Managing Director, Xplore for Success

TWO: CREATE CHANGE IN YOUR ORGANISATION

“Take the ‘Plus One Pledge’ and add a woman to your team. Also, make yourself known as the manager that makes flexibility mainstream.” Andrew Stevens, Non-executive Director, IBM Australia and New Zealand

THREE: INTERROGATE YOUR COMPANY’S POLICIES

“Go and ask your HR department and your managers about their policies on gender equality. Intel has a policy that ensures all middle management roles include at least one female in the recruitment process. Do you have that policy?” Kate Burleigh, Managing Director, Intel Australia/ New Zealand

FOUR: CALL OUT BAD BEHAVIOUR

“What we need here is a culture change – each and every one of us has to change. Have the courage to say no to discrimination and call it out when you see it happening.” Gordon Cairns, Chairman, Origin Energy

FIVE: EDUCATE YOUNGER GENERATIONS

 “Work with the children in your life to understand gender equality – show your sons in particular that equality is the only path forward.” Elizabeth Broderick (Chair), Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission

SIX: DON”T WAIT FOR CHANGE TO HAPPEN – TAKE ACTION

“Don’t wait for someone else to change things for you. Decide to make the change yourself and go and do something about it.” Cassandra Kelly, Co-founder and Joint CEO, Pottinger

An enthusiastic audience member also offered some great advice:

“Pay rises don’t just happen, you need to ask for one – every year!”

The event had a particular focus on encouraging men to participate in the gender debate. The audience comprised 24% men and 76% women.

The men were all encouraged to take action and engage with other men in their organisations to open up conversations about workplace equality.

What also came up in the discussion was the need for women to support and empower other women, which traditionally has not been a strong point.

Cassandra Kelly through her work with The Glass Elevator, and Diana Ryall from Xplore for Success were both passionate advocates on this issue. Diana strongly believes that women should empower each other.

Cassandra agreed.

“Be a little bit selfless and think about how you can support another woman. Be authentic in your encouragement. It’s time for a new movement: Behind every strong woman should be another strong woman” She said.

Thank you to all the wonderful panel members and their inspiring advice.

Read more about the 50|50 Future Leaders event here.

What are you going to do today to build a 50|50 future?

We encourage you to share your comments below.

 

Sally Miles – Sally is the Women’s Editor at Leaders in Heels. She is a Sydney-based mum to two children, wife to one husband, renovator to half a house and  squeezes in full-time work as a publisher amid the chaos. 


Last night at the Swissotel in Sydney, Leaders in Heels hosted the event: 50|50 Future Leaders.

Over 175 guests witnessed some of the nation’s top leaders discuss gender equality in the workplace.

The panel consisted of:

  • Elizabeth Broderick (Chair) – Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission
  • Gordon Cairns – Chairman, Origin Energy
  • Kate Burleigh – Managing Director, Intel Australia/ New Zealand
  • Andrew Stevens – Non-executive Director, IBM Australia and New Zealand
  • Cassandra Kelly- Co-founder and Joint CEO, Pottinger
  • Diana Ryall AM – Founder and Managing Director, Xplore for Success

Men featured in the discussions, probably because that’s where the inspiration for the event came from. Kasia Gospos, Founder of Leaders in Heels and event organiser said:

“I was inspired to create this event because I had been to so many events about gender equality which were attended solely by women. If we truly want change to occur, we need to engage men in the discussion.”

Elizabeth Broderick echoed Kasia’s sentiment stating:

“We are where we are today because of women’s activism, but it’s not enough now – we need men stepping up beside women to see where we can achieve gender balance.”

The whole event aimed to have 50|50 gender participation and managed to achieve a 24% men / 76% women split in the audience, which in itself is commendable.

The discussion covered issues for working mothers, the pay gap and organisational accountability. The need for men to be champions of change was a clear mandate for future change.

Elizabeth Broderick opened discussions by describing ‘gender asbestos’, a term she often uses to describe the unseen discrimination that is more common nowadays than the overt sexual discrimination of the past. “It’s built into the walls, floors and ceilings of so many organisations that you hardly notice it, but it’s there.”

Women in labour

In July this year, the Human Rights Commission released its report: Supporting Working Parents: Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review Report. It found that ‘One in two (49%) mothers reported experiencing discrimination in the workplace at some point during pregnancy, parental leave or on return to work.

‘One in five (18%) mothers indicated that they were made redundant/restructured/dismissed or that their contract was not renewed …’

As the findings of this report were discussed, Andrew Stevens acknowledged that the ‘family years’ usually result in a steep decline in female representation in the workplace but highlighted that only 1 in 10 of those who experienced discrimination during this time made a formal complaint. Often making a complaint led to firing, redundancy or restructuring – and even being encouraged to terminate the pregnancy.

He implored everyone to ask of themselves: What level of discrimination are you comfortable with?

“Is a 49% discrimination rate okay? 20%? 5%? I’m not happy with it, are you?”

Diana Ryall pointed out that discrimination can begin long before a pregnancy is announced: “Once the engagement ring goes on, people will ask ‘So, when are you going to have babies?

Breaking down old beliefs

Some of the issues around returning to work were discussed and it was clear that at least two ‘old-fashioned’ beliefs needed to be broken down in order to find solutions for today’s workplaces.

The first, Kate Burleigh articulated: “Let’s not perpetuate idea that only women make good carers.” Allowing for men to be included as carers in flexible working arrangements is a good start to breaking down this belief. Elizabeth Broderick pointed out that Telstra recently mainstreamed flexibility by introducing company-wide flexible working options for everyone.

Secondly, Andrew Stevens pointed out that we must alleviate the myth that we can’t pay someone unless we see them. “A big change is the ability to control your own schedule by working wherever and whenever you can. Input measurement of hours in the office no longer equals output measurement.”

The gap under the carpet

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) announced data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in August 2014. It shows that the average man working full-time earns 18.2% or $283.20 more than the average full-time working woman.

This figure has risen from previous years.

It was clear that Cassandra Kelly was not standing for this. Infuriated by a recent interaction with a female senior executive who stated that the pay gap was ‘Not for women like us’, Cassandra pleaded for everyone to not think like this.

In fact, it’s the opposite – the higher up you go in seniority, the great the pay gap can become.

Gordon Cairns cautioned that looking at just the averages may not reflect what’s really going on. He suggested the need to look at every case in context and conduct the analysis in a sophisticated way in order to do this issue justice.

Diana Ryall pointed out that organisations are generally not open about their pay gaps and that employers have a responsibility to disclose this information and do something about it.

What we measure, we improve

Kate Burleigh put Intel under the spotlight stating that although the company was 46 years old and had been working on equality for a long time, there was still only 25% representation of women in senior leadership roles. She admitted that the more senior you go, the worse the figures get. “This is the reality in the IT sector and it’s appalling.”

However, there is a way forward in making organisations accountable and creating real and lasting change.

“As recent as the last six months, the industry has decided to publicly print and share statistics and data around this. When you have a target or data, there’s something to rally around. Now we are starting to see some effective processes being put in place as the industry aims for 50/50 equal representation.” She said.

Leading by example

In response to a question about what pressures we need to put on the advertising industry to improve gender perceptions, Gordon Cairns – who has recently worked with this industry –  highlighted the imperative for any change agents to ‘get their house in order first’.

“McKinsey has worked with advertising agencies on what the proven path is. They are sharing statistics with one another and progress is being made.”

He also mentioned that at Origin Energy, they believe in a supplier multiplier where diversity is required right down the supply chain. “Unless you have a diversity program in place, you won’t be called upon to pitch your business, let alone partner with Origin.”

Kate Burleigh outlined a policy at Intel where the recruitment of any middle management roles have at least one female in the candidature. HR departments are held accountable to this requirement.

It is this sort of action that will pave the way for equal gender representation in leadership roles.

What can you do?

The entire panel of speakers were enthusiastic to share their recommended actions not only the audience, but all Leaders in Heels community members.

Read more about the actions you can take today to build a 50|50 future.

Thank you to everyone who attended the event. We welcome your feedback and suggestions for future events.

 

Sally Miles, Gordon Cairns (Chairman,Origin Energy), Kasia Gospos

Sally Miles, Gordon Cairns (Chairman,Origin Energy), Kasia Gospos

Rebecca Sounders (Delicatessen), Kasia Gospos (Leaders in Heels)

Rebecca Sounders (Delicatessen), Kasia Gospos (Leaders in Heels)

Paul Turner, Devika Mohotti, Kasia Gospos, Justine Mills

Paul Turner, Devika Mohotti, Kasia Gospos, Justine Mills

Ozlem Bedlam, Kasia Gospos

Ozlem Bedlam, Kasia Gospos

Laura Diakow, Jingwei Pruefer, Arienne Goerlach

Laura Diakow, Jingwei Pruefer, Arienne Goerlach

Kasia Gospos, Andrew Stevens (Former IBM MD)

Kasia Gospos, Andrew Stevens (Former IBM MD)

Diana Ryall (Xplore for Success), Kasia Gospos

Diana Ryall (Xplore for Success), Kasia Gospos

Erica Enriquez, Sian Edwards, Justine Mills, Paul Turner (CIMA), Kasia Gospos, Yolanda Floro

Erica Enriquez, Sian Edwards, Justine Mills, Paul Turner (CIMA), Kasia Gospos, Yolanda Floro

See more photos from the event at Zahrina Photography Facebook album.

Sally Miles – Sally is the Women’s Editor at Leaders in Heels. She is a Sydney-based mum to two children, wife to one husband, renovator to half a house and  squeezes in full-time work as a publisher amid the chaos. 


Reports by several media outlets including The Australian and The Daily Mail have cited a recent survey of 1000 professionals, stating that ‘Businessmen say women lack ambition’.

Before you get all fired up (as we at Leaders in Heels initially did!), take a closer look at the reporting. It’s actually quite interesting.

The Australian states “Most Australian businessmen blame women for failing to reach to the top, citing family commitments and lack of ambition.” The negative language including ‘blame’ and ‘failing’ along with the angle taken makes this quite an inflammatory interpretation of the survey results. For this particular question, ‘What do you think is the biggest barrier to career progression/leadership roles for women in Australia?’ the responses were:

  • Work/life juggle (Men: 66%, Women: 83%)
  • Lack of ambition (Men 19%, Women: 13%)
  • Lack of qualifications/experience (Men: 16%, Women: 16%)
  • No barriers (Men: 16%, Women: 9%)
  • Men perform in leadership roles better (Men: 9%, Women: 6%)

No matter how people might have answered, there’s a headline in there somewhere. Perhaps ‘Close to one in ten men believe they are better leaders than women’, or ‘As few as 9% of men believe they are better leaders than women’, or how about ‘Eighty-three percent of women believe trying to balance their lives stops their career progression’, or ‘Both men and women equally believe that women don’t have enough experience to be leaders’. Really, it’s a bit of a minefield.

What’s more interesting is the conversation the media are having over this. The ‘lack of ambition’ finding being the most controversial. But perhaps we should question how ambition is defined here. Is it considered purely as the desire to obtain a CEO role? And is this ‘lack of ambition’ suggesting women are lazy or set low goals for themselves?

Elizabeth Broderick, Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, weighed in on the discussion yesterday insisting that there was no evidence women lacked ambition.

We spoke to Megan Dalla-Camina from Positive Leaders who published the results of the survey. She agrees with Elizabeth Broderick that there is no evidence this is true, rather this is what some men (and women) perceive to be barriers. She stated that some of the findings in the survey were expected and others were not.

“The most surprising finding in the survey was the fact that 60% of men thought women had the same career opportunities as men, whereas only 35% of women agreed. It’s the largest discrepancy in the survey.”

“The most surprising finding in the survey was the fact that 60% of men thought women had the same career opportunities as men, whereas only 35% of women agreed. It’s the largest discrepancy in the survey.”

While some media outlets are interpreting this to mean that men believe women only have themselves to blame for poor representation in the boardroom, Ms Dalla-Camina believes this can also be looked at in a positive way – that 60% of men have come so far in their perception of workplace equality that they see absolutely no barriers for women to move up the ranks.

So if it’s all open to interpretation, why are we having such negative conversations about it?

Is it the case that conversations in the media are a reflection of society? We should really be looking at why we accept inflammatory headlines which only serve to drive a wedge between men’s and women’s views in the gender debate.

Men and women should be coming together to discuss the barriers, whether real or perceived, and work towards solutions.

Women and men should be coming together to discuss the barriers, whether real or perceived, and work towards solutions. 

There is growing evidence to support the fact that gender-balanced companies perform better in both productivity and profit. Working towards equal leadership will benefit workplaces across the nation.

So let’s start having better conversations: in the media, in the office, with our peers and at home about the steps we need to take to achieve leadership equality. What can we be doing to ensure we successfully manage our career progression as well as our home-life? (Which, by the way, is something men need to ask of themselves as well.)

Women are a powerful, growing force in the workplace. We are highly capable and determined. We actively craft our lives to create happiness and reach our dreams (see the Leaders in Heels manifesto). We are intelligent enough to evaluate claims and interpret headlines for ourselves.

Yes, we have challenges to overcome in the workplace, but we need to engage with men in a positive, solution-focused way to achieve any sort of change. Only then can we begin to pave the way for our daughters and granddaughters to live in a world where gender bias is a thing of the past.

Now that’s something we should all be fired up about.

– Sally Miles

Thanks to Megan Dalla-Camina from Positive Leaders for your time and contributing to the conversation. You can access the full survey results and recent whitepaper ‘Unleashing the butterfly effect for women and leadership’ here

Sally Miles is Women’s Editor for Leaders in Heels. She is a writer, editor and publisher from Sydney, NSW.

Some of the current gender debate is around whether workplaces should be embracing feminine qualities rather than expecting women leaders to be ‘more like men’. Do feminine qualities mean a woman can’t do a man’s job or does it just mean they do it differently? Should men embrace feminine qualities too?

What do you think? We welcome your comments below.
photo credit: e3Learning via photopin cc