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Connexus : Issue 40
Raising the gender agenda Female senior management is good for business, so why are so many organisations neglecting to actively recruit and develop talented women? BY CYNDI TEBBEL ustralian workplaces enthusiastically embrace new technology such as the latest gadgets and communication platfor ms. But, when it comes to keeping up with changes in gender equity, they are well behind Europe and South-East Asia. Women hold only 24 per cent of senior management roles in the Australian private sector, according to a report the accounting frm Grant Thornton International released in March. Out of the 40 countries surveyed, Australia has slipped from a top 10 ranking to 21st in the space of one year. That puts it well behind other countries including Russia (46 per cent), Botswana, Thailand and the Philippines (all 39 per cent), and Italy (36 per cent). Many Australians, and particularly those working in male-dominated organisations, feel threatened by gender equity change, says Ruth Medd, the chair of Women on Boards. "Once there are more than two women in the room, they think there's a takeover," she says. "But we need to keep having conversations with those people and raise awareness that the business case for gender equity is indisputable." When Medd made a presentation called 'Good Governance: the business case for diversity' at the recent Abacus CEO & Director Forum, she cited data indicating that fnancial performance and corporate governance improve when more women hold senior management and board positions. For example, a 2011 report by the not- for-proft Reibey Institute, which studies women's leadership issues, found that ASX500 companies with women directors delivered higher return on equity than companies without women directors. Another study, by Goldman Sachs JBWere in 2010, suggested that closing the gender pay gap could boost Australia's GDP by 11 per cent. In the mutual sector, women comprise only 21.4 per cent of boards, which is markedly better than ASX200 boards at 14 per cent, but still below the superannuation sector's 23.3 per cent and the 38 per cent for government boards and committees. The good news is that the mutual sector is making progress in gender equity. That 21.4 per cent is 3 per cent higher than the fgure for 2011, according to WOB's annual Boardroom Diversity Index. Culture and metrics Increasing gender diversity is diffcult to achieve without a clear understanding of organisational culture and metrics, says Medd. While ASX200 guidelines already require companies to report on the composition of their workforce, and the soon-to-be-enacted Gender Equality Act will enforce similar reporting, Medd Once there are more than two women in the room, they think there’s a takeover... Ruth Medd, Chair, Women on Boards 22 Connexus Diversity