Gender equality is good for all of us.
Having women in your workforce is good for business and the economy. UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 also recognises that gender equality is fundamental to a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world and to prevent violence against women and girls.
Gender equality in the workplace is not only the right thing to do, it is what employees are demanding. 77% agree that CEOs need to speak out on diversity and 79% say that CEOs need to take the lead to change rather than wait for government.
However, women are still left behind in workplaces all around the world. In Australia, women are paid 14% less than men. This translates to a superannuation gap of 47% when women retire. The number of female leaders continues to stagnate – only 15 CEOs in ASX300 are women.
There are several organisations challenging the status quo and working to transform gender representation across industries.
These leaders recognise that there is a significant economic impact when women are underrepresented in the workplace.
Gender diversity leads to better economic outcomes. Workplaces that have gender diverse leadership and policies attract top female talent. When this is reinforced by equal opportunity promotion policies, a greater awareness of unconscious bias, women and businesses excel.
Studies have shown that an increase in the number of qualified women in an organisation’s leadership yields better performance overall. Better gender balance in male-dominated professions has been shown to contribute to the improvement of working conditions for both men and women, with positive effects on wellbeing, work culture and productivity. Women bring new perspectives into their work, are more likely to act collaboratively in the workplace and contribute to greater fairness.
Increasing female participation can also help industries facing workforce shortages. For example, women make up only 32% of those employed in the renewable energy sector, the highest growth energy sector which has escalating labour requirements.
We know from our experience of working in the development, marketing and evaluation of a new solar battery installation course for Future Energy Skills, women are not entering these high growth industries. Our work helped to overcome the innate biases that prevent women from entering these industries by positioning women as leaders in the marketing campaign.
However, we know that we also need to build inclusive work cultures and practices to promote the participation of women.
“Let’s not pretend that there aren’t already established norms that advantage men. Men invented the system. Men largely run the system. Leaders must confront their behaviour, overcome the biases and focus on true merit and inclusion.”
Industries are striving to transform gender representation.
One industry taking steps towards greater gender equality is advertising. Sexist advertising perpetuates a culture of gender inequality that enables violence against women and girls. Tackling this requires industry-wide change. Recently, we have been supporting Women’s Health Victoria to develop a new strategic framework to address gender equality in advertising. The strategic framework outlines a national approach for change to improve how advertising represents women and girls, setting out actions for industry, community and government. Industry-wide strategies are one way to achieve a society and workplaces that value women as equals.
Government getting behind gender equality.
In Victoria, legislative changes will also mean that an increasing number of workplaces will need to develop an organisation-wide approach to achieving gender equality. When passed, the Gender Equality Bill 2019 will require government organisations to develop Gender Equality Action Plans and measure, track and report progress towards gender equality. This will have a flow-on effect on recruitment and procurement decisions.
All workplaces and leaders can do their part.
We all play a role in changing culture to create more diverse and effective organisations. At Ellis Jones, we do this by offering flexible work policies, part-time hours and diversity and inclusion policies. More than half of our leadership team is female and this has had a flow-on effect in our office culture.
We also address gender equality through our work in indirect and direct ways. We flip gender stereotypes and represent men and women in diverse roles in our creative campaigns. We have females in all our teams and choose to work with clients who reflect the same values. This representation of shared responsibility reflects how we work and think.
Value the women in your workplace.
The opportunity for change is here. Together we can transform gender representation across industries.
To create a gender-inclusive workplace:
- Develop industry-specific Gender Equality Action Plans that are codesigned and developed with employees and industry representatives to ensure commitment and buy-in.
- Run recruitment campaigns that empower and attract women into workplaces.
- Put in place strategies of gender balance and set targets to achieve them.
- Engage and train workplaces to understand the impact of gender equity.