Equality is not a threat, it's a political, social and economic opportunity - Women's Agenda

Equality is not a threat, it’s a political, social and economic opportunity

The morning after International Women’s Day is an excellent opportunity to reflect back on the message the day delivered, and how we’ll now move forward. Especially with this year’s theme: #BeBoldForChange.

It’s also a chance to see how much there is still to do — and the opportunities available in getting there.

Last year’s theme- #pledgeforparity- had me recently questioning whether we saw change throughout 2016 and if we genuinely did take steps to move closer to parity.

Here’s where we currently stand:

  • The national gender pay gap is 16.2 per cent, down from 19 per cent in 2016
  • The fulltime average weekly earnings difference is $260.10
  • The gender pay gap in ASX 200 organizations is 28.7 per cent
  • The gender pay gap in the sporting industry is 50 per cent
  • The average superannuation balance for women at retirement is 52.8 per cent less than men
  • The proportion of CEOs who are female is 15.4 per cent
  • Out of Melbourne’s 106 suburbs, a single woman can only afford to rent one bedroom flats in just over a quarter of the city.

Equality is a core human value which women have been asking for in every country across the globe for centuries. According to the World Economic Forum, we won’t reach global parity in social or economic terms until 2186.

The 2017 IWD #beboldforchange is a call out to women to step up and boldly ask for what they want. We have come a long way but there is still much more to do.

The IWD 2017 theme this year strikes a chord with me. I believe women are bold; we are bold enough to have children, to leave them in care and go back to work, to go to war and to lead countries. We are getting bolder in asking for what we want, in pursuing our dreams and desires and many of us are bold enough to walk away from what doesn’t make us happy. We can be single and do it on our own.

My question is: When are Australia’s leaders going to be bold an drive significant and rapid change on the issues of diversity, parity and equality?

The IWD call to action should include a call out to our government and business leaders who have the power to accelerate equality through bold policy making, diverse recruitment strategies, and a moral compass set so high that we start to influence the issue globally.

The current economic gap has a resounding impact, especially on my generation. Now more than ever we need business leaders to model the behaviours and set the tone in their work environments to elevate and positively impact this issue. We need to smash the glass ceiling from the inside.

Targets and quotas to achieve gender diversity have created much debate and this would be an example of a bold move. However, there is a difference between targets and quotas. Targets are measurable objectives set by an organisation at their own discretion. Quotas are mandatory, set externally by anybody that has the authority to impose them. I believe targets are a bold move, if we go down the path of quotas then we will have failed as leaders.

On this International Women’s Day, let’s pledge to be bold leaders, to take action and to do more than ever before.

  • Audit your organisation and if what you see is more of you, whether it be in gender or colour, change it
  • Measure and be aware of the gaps in your hiring, remuneration and promotion policy
  • Find mentors and sponsors for your high potential women
  • Be conscious of unconscious bias, we have all been guilty of this
  • Measure the results of actions taken
  • Importantly, make men part of this journey

Be bold for change also requires us to be bold for action. Without action, we won’t have ground breaking results, we won’t achieve a gender inclusive world, we won’t have responsive and responsible leaders and the gap won’t close until 2186.

My ask is not just for women to be bold for change but for all leaders to be equally bold for change. What conversations can you start with your people? Who can you influence outside of your organisation to go on the same journey as you? What changes can you make quickly that will connect and unite your entire workforce?

Every March 8 we raise awareness about the same issues using different words. This year, let’s be bold enough to deliberately measure the changes we make across our organisation. Not only is this great for business, but remarkable for humanity and memorable for future generations.

Remember equality is not a threat, it is a social, economic, political opportunity.


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