20 May 2015

Gender diversity under spotlight

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In a show of support for women in the cockpit, Alan Joyce, the high-profile head of Qantas, has weighed behind high-flying women. Among the recent gender diversity updates, Qantas has hired Georgina Sutton as the chief pilot for its budget carrier, Jetstar. This offers a “great example” example of the airline’s commitment to female participation, says Joyce.

Qantas is a member of the influential “Male Champions for Change program. This was initiated in 2010 by the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick 

“Like my fellow Champions of Change, I’ll be doing everything I can in 2015 to ensure that Qantas is a workplace where women can thrive, grow and lead to their maximum potential,” Joyce notes.

The “Male Champions for Change” (MCC) comes slickly-packaged with a membership representing highly-successful corporate and government players. Combined, these members account for 400,000 employees nationally. Of this base, 170,000 are female staff.

The female workers – while a smaller proportion of the overall numbers of people employed – is meant to inspire and challenge their corporate heads to “deliver on our mission every day.”

The MCC members represent a who’s who of Australian business, in the top league of commercial success. There’re 23 members in this exclusive club and three “international ambassadors.”

Among these, there’s the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Telstra, KPMG, ASX, Rio Tinto, ANZ, Network 10, IBM. Deloitte, Woolworths, Goldman Sachs, Citi, Federal Treasury and the Australian Defence Force.

This group’s mantra is to listen, learn and lead with action.

Does the math add up?

What looks good on paper is matched by a different reality in the workplace.
As Joyce concedes, while recently flagging the Jetstar chief pilot appointment, Australia’s male-female ratio lags behind other developed countries.

“Nations and companies can’t afford to ignore the leadership, knowledge, skills and innovation that women bring to the workforce,” says Joyce.

The math behind female participation at work – especially in the upper echelons of management or board-rooms – is especially sobering. While closing the gender gap is high on the agenda across business and government, the stats tell a different story.

Commissioner Broderick echoes concerns around Australia’s insufficient female participation. She warns that Australia lags behind other G20 countries.
Among other trends;

  • Women have approximately half the retirement income and savings of men.
  • They are under-represented in leadership roles, across business, board-rooms and in parliament.

“It has become clear to me is that promoting gender equality not only promotes and protects the rights of affected women,” says Commissioner Broderick.

Female participation contributes to better-functioning organisations and businesses.

“As a result of diversity of thinking, better financial results, improved decision making, reduced turnover, and utilising the best talent,” notes Broderick.

How the figures stack up

But the commission’s findings show that unpaid carers have significantly lower rates of workforce participation. They are more likely to work in part-time and casual jobs.
Moreover, sixty-six per cent of employed women with children aged under six years worked part-time compared. This compares with just seven per cent of employed men with children of the same age. 
Less than 23 per cent of female primary carers of people with disability, illness or frailty participate in full-time employment at any point across all age groups. This compares with 52 per cent of men.

Commercial incentives

Among the stats, the Grattan Institute estimates that a six per cent increase in women’s workforce participation could generate an increase in Australia’s gross domestic product by $25 billion.

Apart from the commercial drivers, closing the gender gap around female participation is a pre-requisite for shared prosperity across developed, emerging and under-developed countries.

The planet is awash sombre report around gender equality, among these, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the International Labour Organisation.

On the international front, Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs, notes that expanding women’s participation in the economy is a strong driver of growth.

It’s estimated that the Asia-Pacific alone loses around US$50 billion a year because of limited female access to jobs. An estimated $30 billion a year is lost because of poor female education.

“Investing in women is not just the right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do,” notes Bishop. “That is why a focus of our program will be to empower women entrepreneurs in our region.”
With the high-profile support for gender diversity, when then, you may ask is Australia lagging behind its G20 or OECD counter-parts?

Governments and business recognise the potential of gender diversity and broader female participation. But despite decades of equal employment opportunity (EEO) programs, it’s difficult to see past the glass ceiling.


You may wonder: do we need male “champions” to claim what rightfully belongs to us?


Shahida has worked for global companies as well as start-ups in Sydney, Canberra, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Washington DC.
Her editorial portfolio incorporates Phillips Publishing International (Washington DC), IDG Communications & IDG Enterprise Group (Sydney, Canberra & Washington DC), Australian Consolidated Press and News Limited. For three years, she filed editorial for Singapore-based FutureGov Magazine.
Shahida has designed, developed, delivered and managed an extensive portfolio of conferences, seminars and workshops across major markets and topic areas.
Her portfolio of conferences incorporate FutureGov, Institute for International Research (IIR), Terrapin, KeyMedia and CEBIT Australia.
She holds degrees in journalism, mass communications, and English LiteratureShahida has worked for global companies as well as start-ups in Sydney, Canberra, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Washington DC.
Her editorial portfolio incorporates Phillips Publishing International (Washington DC), IDG Communications & IDG Enterprise Group (Sydney, Canberra & Washington DC), Australian Consolidated Press and News Limited. For three years, she filed editorial for Singapore-based FutureGov Magazine.
Shahida has designed, developed, delivered and managed an extensive portfolio of conferences, seminars and workshops across major markets and topic areas.
Her portfolio of conferences incorporate FutureGov, Institute for International Research (IIR), Terrapin, KeyMedia and CEBIT Australia.
She holds degrees in journalism, mass communications, and English Literature

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