Gender Equality – Last week I reflected on my business journey to date and my insights as a mumpreneur. I write this latest post on my way to Melbourne for a series of business meetings, affording me time to read the papers.
Two articles piqued my interest and prompted me to start typing. One article talks about the ongoing inequality experienced by women in the workplace. The other examines how the online revolution has given women a voice they would never have had 10 years ago.
In this post I focus on gender equality or the lack of it, and in my next post I examine the power of women as consumers.
For those of you who know me professionally and personally, it will come as no surprise that I am passionate about women’s issues and a great advocate for equal opportunity in the workplace and in business. My beliefs are shaped by my own personal experiences to date, and by news stories that cross my business radar almost every day.
For example, women currently hold only 14.6 per cent of board seats in Australia, and 55 companies of Australia’s ASX 200 don’t have any female representation on their boards at all. Women’s earnings are still 17.5 per cent lower than men’s – a gap slightly higher than the 15.9 per cent gap in 1994. If Australia is progressing on the gender diversity front, we are doing so at a snail’s pace.
Earlier this year I travelled to South Africa for work on a client project around diversity. I met with a senior woman in the police force who managed diversity programs internally. She told me that there are more women in senior leadership positions in South Africa than Australia. I’m often surprised at how much larger the gender equality gap is compared to what I had thought.
The pressures on women in the modern world should not be underestimated. Women are juggling an increasingly demanding routine of work and family responsibilities. Many women need to continue working for financial reasons, yet the expense of childcare often prevents women from working for necessity or to progress their career. Like Jessica Irvine in her October 14 article ‘Women give voice to the silent rage of inequality’, I am offended at the view that women who choose careers over family are heartless and selfish. I am equally outraged that men who choose flexible working options are viewed as being not dedicated.
I agree with Jessica: it is time to move beyond words and have a national conversation about some of these lingering issues. I think a key starting point is at the workplace level. For the true business benefits of diversity to be realised, a cultural shift needs to take place. This needs to start at the top from C-level executives and at the board level. Companies need to walk the talk.
M&C is engaged and active in this debate. In our own small way we try to do our bit. We support working mothers through flexible work conditions and a culture that is supportive, rewarding and promotes empowerment through better work skills. Several of our staff members – along with me personally – enjoy the support of partners who do their part at home, especially caring for children. Gender equality on the workplace should be a no-brainer. It’s about engaging with your staff, of realising that their performance at work is strongly linked to their satisfaction outside the office. And at M&C, we’re pleased to say that it works.