Personally, I consider equality a basic human right, and as an economist I feel it’s such a waste that talented women are not being given the opportunities that reflect their abilities. We can’t afford to exclude these women anymore – something needs to be done and at a much faster rate.
Recently I spoke at a Woman@WorkSafe event in Melbourne about a topic that’s particularly close to my heart – building a culture of supporting women.
Women@WorkSafe is a great new initiative inspiring and motivating women to put their best foot forward, to take risks, and to recognise and celebrate their strengths.
I thought I’d share some of what I spoke about. I’ll begin by looking at why in 2017 women still need greater support in the workplace.
A lot of things have happened over the course of my career and I’m absolutely sure some of it was because I’m female; but let’s consider some unquestionable data.
The gender pay gap in ASX 200 organisations is still almost 30%. (Actually, it’s exactly 28.7% and more broadly it’s 16.2 %.)
Women hold just 12.9% of chair positions, 24.7% of directorships, and represent 16.3% of CEOs and 28.5% of key management personnel – in Agency (Workplace Gender Equality Agency or WGEA) reporting organisations.
The data tells an indisputable story, and this is just a snippet; but why else should we offer greater support to women?
As an economist any recommendation I put forward must make financial sense and this undoubtedly does. In fact, according to the Global Leadership Forecast the top 20% financial performing companies have almost twice as many women in leadership roles. Who would have thought? Me.
Women make up over 46% of all employees in Australia so let’s be frank – by excluding women, or not giving them opportunities – we are seriously limiting our talent pool. We want the best candidates available, male or female, right? So let’s stop restricting access to women and open up the lines of opportunity. But exactly how can we make this happen?
There is plenty we can do individually and collectively to better support women in the workplace. I’m going to mention three things that in my experience can make a real difference.
- Actively support each other; that is women supporting other women. Women can accomplish amazing things when we work together; when we support each other; when we advocate and celebrate each other.
- Invite men to participate in the conversation; sit down at the table and actively engage in creating a culture of support. To make this happen we need more men to understand that gender equality benefits men too. Gains for women do not mean losses for men.
Having men involved in the conversation is incredible valuable; history tells us that men are great advocates for each other, it’s something they naturally do, so let’s get them advocating for us. Let’s cross the gender gap when it comes to mentors too – men for women and women for men – more about mentors in my next point.
So get men on-board, we’re going to need their support if we want to make lasting change.
- Be more than a mentor. Mentoring has been linked to increasing diversity and inclusion at work so it’s a no-brainer in this conversation. But mentors are not enough.
Remember women can accomplish amazing things when we work together; when we support each other; when we advocate and celebrate each other.
Helen Silver is the Chief General Manager, Workers Compensation at Allianz Australia Limited