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In recent years there has been growing concern regarding the under representation of women in leadership.

Whilst there has been increasing recognition in the business community expanding women’s leadership visibility and board positions, critical to business success – many leaders are struggling to deploy strategies addressing issues impacting women’s advancement.

Gender equality in Australia

Women constitute 42% of the workforce yet make up only one quarter of executives and 10% of CEOs representing large, for profit businesses. The transition point from key management positions to CEO has the highest drop off – 59% in women’s representation.

We have researched key strategies businesses can embrace to better support women’s advancement, such as balancing work and family, challenging biases and removing barriers deterring women from many of the roles which typically lead to senior leadership.

Build momentum of change within your business

When businesses link gender balance directly to the company’s mission and purpose employees perceive gender diversity to achieving business results – after all business goals are more seamless when employees make a personal commitment to the cause.

To achieve greater impact, create a space for open and frank discussions within your workplace to hear differing opinions, test belief and most importantly celebrate change.

Champion a commitment to diversity

Lead by example exhibiting support for diversity and inclusion, both internally and as a member of the business community. Consider incorporating the following strategies:

  • Recruit a team with diverse talent
  • Promote flexible work arrangements and personally use them
  • Encourage suppliers and business partners to adapt their products and services to serve a more diverse workforce
  • Commence conversations with clients to uphold inclusive work practices.

Redesign work roles, enable flexible work and normalise uptake across levels and genders

In order to break perception that working flexibly is a sign people are not committed to avoid introducing flexible work as a ‘concession’ to parents, instead normalise it as a way to enable employees to thrive at their best.

This requires a cultural shift in focus from presenteeism to trust and outcomes. Businesses are encouraged to work with their managers to overcome these barriers – typically addressing the loss of control, whilst reinforcing employees with clear outcomes and holding them accountable. one mechanism for mitigating these disputes.

Improve sponsorship of rising women

Sponsorship by the CEO or C-Suite executives is a critical practice in developing women into leadership roles. It requires investment of time to identify and support talented women. However, it encourages ongoing progression, assists with problem solving, and enables women to overcome barriers hindering their development.

Increase support of talent through life transitions

It’s in a business’s best interest to keep talent in their pipeline to achieve this to assist employees managing their career in parallel with their carer responsibilities.

The transition years into parenthood are some of the hardest to keep career tracks active for women. In Australia, women are six times more likely to resign in their current role on parental leave than men and regardless of industry, the pipeline of women takes its biggest hit during early childbearing years.

Companies should recognise celebrating parenthood and actively encourage return to work after periods of leave is crucial for nurturing their talent pipeline, in particular for women.

Strategies to improve support include investment in family support measures, such as parent networks or childcare referral services, are linked to lower resignation rates.

Challenge traditional views in recruitment and evaluation

Actively monitoring for unconscious bias and systemically intervene, particularly at key decision moments including recruitment and evaluation.

Recently, top companies have amplified their recruitment – increasing shortlist targets for women, re-examining the depiction of their brand, eliminating job descriptions and widening the acceptable range of candidate profiles breaking away from traditional views of what constitutes a successful candidate.

Upskill frontline managers in handling fears and staff concerns – mitigate risk conversations and introduce feedback loops relating to diversity and flexible work arrangements. This reduces reluctance from managers to avoid conversations for fear of saying the wrong thing or not knowing the best flexible work arrangements.

Focus on development of rising women

It is vital for employers to assist women receive the necessary operational and leadership exposure from an early stage in their career.

Many businesses have implemented formal development programs that target high potential women however many lack purposeful outcomes. The key is to develop baselined management practices and run talent insights survey to ensure programs are targeted to employee’s needs.

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