EY has released a report today called Women in Leadership – in his own words. It is based on interviews with nine leading Australian business leaders in the public and private sectors. It found that, while gender equity is a national imperative, our progress is still hamstrung by bias and ingrained cultural and organisational beliefs.
The situation is uniquely acute in Australia. Currently, we have both one of the world’s lowest rates of educated women participating in the workforce and one of the world’s highest rates of female education. Here’s what they had to say about the fact we are getting the world’s worst return on the multi-billion dollar investment we make in female education every year.
“Australia has a very small population compared with other countries. If we are to remain competitive, we must use our entire population to look for talent. From both a social justice perspective and from a practical standpoint of wanting the best person for the job, I think it’s frankly ridiculous that we only appoint senior people from 49% of the population.”
David Gonski Chairman Coca-Cola Amatil, Investec (Australia), Ingeus
“To me, productivity is really about three things: being more innovative, helping more people get into and stay in the workforce and, most of all, it’s about helping people achieve their full potential. What does that have to do with gender equity? Well, everything. We know innovation comes with diversity of thinking. We know diversity in executive teams and in the boardroom helps drive better financial results. We know the rise in female employment has boosted Australia’s economy by 22% per cent since 1974. And we know closing the gap between male and female employment rates would boost GDP by up to 13%. That’s why it makes economic sense for Australia.”
Brian Hartzer Westpac’s Chief Executive, Australian Financial Services
“We have a majority of women securing very good university degrees and going into business, yet they are significantly under-represented in executive suites and on boards. How can you deny people the opportunity to make the best of their skills? How can you have so many talented people available to the country and not use them?”
Dr Simon Longstaff St James Ethics Centre Executive Director
“I am all for businesses doing good deeds, but this isn’t in the ‘good deed’ category. This is in the ‘you’ve got to get this right’ category.”
Ian Narev Commonwealth Bank of Australia CEO
“It allows you to tap into an unbelievable talent pool. If you don’t, you’re fishing in a very small pond. There’s a solid business case for diversity. Companies that embrace inclusion and diversity outperform the rest of the market. It makes you better at planning, making decisions, managing risk, driving innovation and implementing strategy. It’s better for our customers, employees and shareholders.”
Alan Joyce Qantas CEO