The theme for 2019 International Women’s Day (IWD) is Balance for Better. This is a theme that resonates strongly with me from many angles which is why I am passionate about sharing my thoughts as the key note speaker at AusIMM’s inaugural IWD lunch events in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, on 6, 7 and 8th March 2019.
Balance in Leadership
The business case is clear. Research says 30% of women on the Board of Directors is the proportion when critical mass is reached to create change. In a group setting, the voices of the minority group become heard in their own right, rather than simply representing the minority.
Organisations with 30% or more of women on the Board of Directors are also more profitable. In Australia, superannuation retirement funds with 30% of women in leadership outperformed male-dominated funds by $7 billion over three years.
Research shows companies with gender diversity are not only more profitable and productive, but they are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making. This leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns with lower staff turnover, as well as better risk management and less fraud.
Balance is Elusive
Gender equality currently won’t be achieved for another 202 years, even though we know that:
- Countries with higher rates of gender equality have lower rates of domestic violence. In Australia one woman each week is killed by her current or former intimate partner.
- Women retire with around 50% less of the retirement savings of men.
- Suicide is the leading cause of death in Australian men aged 15 to 44— more than double the national road toll. Today, 6 men will suicide.
- Pay equality was legislated in Australia in 1969, to be phased in by 1972, but we still have a 21.3% gender pay gap.
On the Global Gender Equality Index Australia places 39th out of 144 countries. Gender inequality is a problem locally, nationally and internationally.
Mobilising the Female Economy to achieve Balance for Better
As a gender equality advocate for my entire HR career in the resources sector, I have always read widely on the latest research being released. The insignificant action of scrolling through a Harvard Business Review article when I was in a Melbourne taxi for a work trip, ended my HR career.
I discovered that women make 85% of purchase decisions.
What an incredible, economic lever woman already had in their hands to effect change. As we all well know, money talks.
I became obsessed with the statistic. I thought, “what if we identified companies with 30% women in leadership and asked women to buy from those companies?” Could I create better balance by mobilising the female economy? I quit my job in April 2016 to find out and started Femeconomy.com.
Balance in Caring
When my daughter was born 11 years ago, my whole world tilted on its axis. We made the decision my husband would be primary carer, and I was gobsmacked by the number of men in mining and resources (the industry I worked in for most of my career) who quietly shared with me that they wished they had that opportunity.
Men want to be hands on raising their children. 4 out of 5 new fathers say they want to work flexibly for this reason. We need to provide them with the opportunity and structures to do so.
Until we mainstream flexible work and the opportunity for men to share care, we will have difficulty achieving gender equality.
You can create Balance for Better
Here are 5 actions everyone can take to advance gender equality, including:
- Check Femeconomy.com for your top 5 brands and use your purchasing power to support brands that have at least 30% women in leadership
- Incorporate gender diversity in your supplier criteria for corporate purchases
- Understand your own company’s gender equality, inclusion and diversity commitments and behaviours, and find out how you can support progress. Also, if you observe something that undermines progress, call it out. Don’t be a bystander.
- Consider the impact of gender inequality on men, and how equality benefits benefit both men and women
- Investigate your own unconscious biases, reflect on how they have developed, and make the commitment to be more inclusive in your thoughts (self talk) and actions. Recognise that it’s an important topic to discuss, and that we’ll all inevitably make some mistakes (and learn) as we seek to improve.
This International Women’s Day, I’m excited to announce that I will be sharing how we can achieve Balance for Better as the keynote speaker at AusIMM’s inaugural IWD lunch events in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, on 6, 7 and 8th March 2019.
AusIMM is the peak body representing 65,000 resources professionals across government, industry and academia.