Still more men called Peter? Let's all push forward in 2017

23 Dec 2016

In early 2015, Conrad Liveris released research that found there are more men named Peter leading ASX 200 organisations than there are women. That research still stands today. Below, the workforce diversity specialist calls for change. 

Every year I think this, but I really can’t believe 2016 is coming to an end.

It has been a roller-coaster year which saw great hope and even greater disappointment. But as I keep reminding myself, that is life.

As I’ve been thinking about 2016, I’ve become increasingly concerned about gender equality.

Sure, there were some wins. The gender pay gap started closing, Hillary Clinton showed that women can seek the most powerful role in the world and fare pretty well at trying to win, and we are seeing an increase in opportunities for women at work with more CEOs putting it on their agenda.

But I just can’t go past the gaps and regressions.

Vitriolic sexist language was seen in politics and wider societysexual harassment rates keep rising and we still need to talk about the business case for gender equality.

Even amongst this mix, and pretty poor picture if we are being honest, we seem to take women in leadership, and diversity throughout society, for granted.

We shouldn’t. Such gender diversity is fragile and precarious.

Just last week, the AICD released their update for the 30 Per Cent Club. It was mostly good news, but showed a number of companies are listing without a single female board member involved. 

I recently spoke to a woman at the top of her game. A director of major listed companies, she spoke to me about her first executive role overseeing hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of staff.

She looked around the table she was sitting at that featured only men and thought “is this the competition? They are all so boring”.

We both laughed about it, but it is still true today as it was 30 years ago.

My own research which shows you are still more likely to be named Peter or Michael than be a female executive remains true today. Workplace Gender Equality Agency data shows that women are about 1/3 of senior managers and 1/6 heads of business.

The further you go into more masculine industries the more those statistics shrink.

I am sick and tired of seeing the same small group of women at the top. 

For Australia to succeed, we need to see more women flourish and achieve leadership positions. That requires organisations to play their part, and women to step forward too. 

In 2017, please yes to the opportunities, seek out mentors, apply for scholarships, take on a bigger projects at work.

Too often I see talented women get concerned they are upsetting processes or other men by trying to get ahead and that there will be a backlash. 

And so we have this chicken and the egg scenario, a backlash occurs because people aren’t used to seeing women in front of them being ambitious and demanding opportunities.

In 2017, you have an opportunity to lead and change that dialogue. Every woman does.

Conrad Liveris

Conrad Liveris is a workforce diversity specialist

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