It’s Time to Be Bold, Because there is No Messiah!

I’ve worked out that there are two types of people in my network. Those that love Monty Python and those who do not. If you are one of the latter, then some of this article may not make sense.

The Life of Brian.

The Life of Brian is a Monty Python film that tells the story of a young Jewish boy, Brian Cohen, who was born on the same day as Jesus Christ, in the premises next door. Brian is subsequently mistaken for The Messiah. The catch phrase of The Life of Brian is “he’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy”, is yelled by his Mother to a crowd outside his house after one of Brian’s misdemeanours that were most un-Messiah like. I can hear that phrase and chuckle, like most of us who were indoctrinated into the Pythonesque British satire that dominated the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Whilst it was a controversial film at the time (it was either heresy or blasphemy depending on your views) it highlights the worlds need to find hero’s, rescuers and saviours, with Hollywood regularly obliging. Not much has changed, look at the spate of super-hero movies that keep churning out of movie studios. We’re seeking hope, salvation or solutions to wicked problems or at least, wicked villains.

I have my own catch cry. When my conversations inevitably turn to solving one of societies thorniest problems, I will often retort that it’s time to get serious, because ‘the Messiah isn’t coming!” Nor is Superman. Nor is there a silver bullet. There is no one being, spiritual, mythical, human or one solution (silver bullet) that is going to solve gender inequality.

What is going to solve gender inequality?

Not what. Who! You are. I am. We are. Until every person in business and society takes it upon themselves to boldly step forward and be the change they want to see, then progress will remain as it is today, frozen.

In fact, progress isn’t frozen, it has retreated in some sectors. Elizabeth Proust, Chair of the AICD called for a ‘reinvigoration’ of the campaign to increase the number of female board appointees. The AICD reported in its most recent Quarterly Gender Diversity report that more women left ASX200 boards than were appointed, with a monthly board appointment rate of 30% against a target of 44%. This drop in the appointment rate means the AICD are unlikely to see their self-imposed target of 30% women on ASX200 boards until after 2019. (noting that 30% is NOT equal)

Similarly, the Women on Boards 2016 Gender Balance in Global Sport report says that there has ‘been no real progress with regard to the number of women on sports boards internationally.’  Of equal concern is that the ability to report on the gender pay gap in sport ‘proved difficult’.

In her book, Stop Fixing Women, Catherine Fox interviewed Martin Parkinson who was (then) head of Australian Treasury. Parkinson had commissioned an external review of Treasury to understand why women were not advancing. The output of the review was, predictably, poor and Parkinson was quoted saying to a colleague ‘we are not leading the organisation we thought we were.’ Perhaps the responsibility for gender equality had been delegated to the HR team, the D&I manager or the employee resource group? Assigning responsibility for gender equality action to HR/D&I teams and employee resource groups is fraught with danger in that it absolves the people most likely to enact the change required from taking action. The business leaders.

2017 was supposed to be the year of “Be Bold For Change’.

I am a converted advocate for quotas as the self-regulation of business is clearly not working. Quotas will be the bold circuit breaker required to shift the dial on gender equality. I worked for an organisation that had “Be Bold” as one of its values. Interesting concept. One person’s “Bold” is another’s ‘you’re an idiot!” The same principle applies to gender diversity, equality and inclusion. What will it take to solve? Again, I cry, not what, who. Who is you, me, business leaders, corporations, educators, policy makers and legislators. It is up to each one of us to boldly step forward and take action.

Imagine this.

What if every single person over the age of 15 years in Australia made one small but bold, deliberate and purposeful act to support gender equality every month? If every single person chose to undertake an act of inclusion. That is about 18M people. 18 million separate acts of inclusion and equality. OK, let’s halve that for arguments sake. 9 million acts, big, small or somewhere in between. Each month. 108,000, 000 acts of inclusion annually. A very real possibility.

As a business leader, your act of equality and inclusion looks like this:

  • Data: What are the gender statistics where you work? Or play sport? How many women have been promoted to senior or executive roles? Are women advancing at the same rate as men? Are women paid equally?
  • Support: Which women are you sponsoring? Which women are you mentoring (note: please mentor them the same way men get mentored) When did you last commend a woman for her idea, contribution at a meeting? When did you last put a woman forward for a stretch assignment?
  • Facts: What is it like for a woman to work in your organisation? How hard or easy is it for women to navigate life and career? What do the women in your business really want or need? Have a coffee with some of them, and ask.
  • Ecosystem: How many of your industry associations, partners, vendors and suppliers in your supply chain have gender equality targets? Do you measure their performance on gender? Do you have a procurement policy on gender equality?
  • Accountability: The HR department or Diversity and Inclusion Manager cannot make gender equality a reality in your organisation. It is the responsibility of all business leaders to make this happen. What are you doing?

These ideas and actions are not bold in any way. They are simple, actionable tasks that anyone can take to start making gender equality a reality, in our lifetime.

This article was originally published by Advancing Women, and authored by Michelle Redfern

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Posted by Jade Collins - Femeconomy Director

Jade Collins has 20 years’ global experience in corporate executive Human Resources and management consulting roles in the Mining, Energy and Aerospace industries, leading large scale, complex multi-million-dollar change management programs. Jade finds the combination of her HR, Psychology and MBA qualifications and her leadership experience is invaluable for increasing gender equality in leadership across industries. Jade was a member of the Queensland Government's Strategic Advisory Group for the Toward Gender Parity: Women on Boards Initiative and the 2019 CQU Alumni of the Year for Social Impact for her work with Femeconomy.