Female leadership enjoyed significant progress over the past decade. Surprisingly, despite more women currently occupying places on the boards of Australia’s largest companies, they remain woefully underrepresented. More than 100 ASX 300 companies still lack female board representation. Overall, less than 30% of board directors for ASX 200 companies are female.
At the C-suite level, the story is much the same. Consider: only 16% of CEOs in Australian companies are female and 70% of organisations have exclusively male senior management teams.
While the needle has moved, a lot must change before we see a 50-50 gender split at the top levels of leadership.
The cost of falling behind
Although the case for female leadership is so compelling, change is slow. One possible reason is that many women in leadership roles don’t hold roles that allow them to progress directly to the CEO position. Even though females are moving up the ladder, they climb a professional path that merely leads to higher ranking support roles.
The disadvantage of slow progress? Businesses miss out on the benefits of female leadership. For instance, Gallup research found that female managers outperform their male counterparts in engaging their employees. Additionally, companies with leadership teams in the top quartile of gender diversity had a 21% likelihood of enjoying above-average profitability.
Plus, a gender diverse leadership team can deliver results beyond revenue:
- Be an employer of choice. In WGEA’s Business Case for Gender Equality, they reported that employers with policies and practices that support gender equality are better at attracting top talent. It also found employees are more likely to remain with employers who are proactive when it comes to diversity.
- Create a stronger brand. Promoting gender diversity in leadership creates an inclusive, positive and engaging workplace. Without being weighed down by internal issues that ultimately affect productivity and performance, brands become strong.
- Foster an innovation culture. Women representation in senior management also improves a company’s innovation efforts.
It begs the question, when will organisations realise the real cost of falling behind? More importantly, what can we do to create a business environment where female leadership is the norm?
Programs with purpose
If the solution rests on better development programs, then these must set high-potential women on a clear path towards top-level positions. Women will fare better amid gender-bias by developing their expertise and skills to make a practical difference in the workplace. They also need confidence in their development program of choice.
As the only professional development program of its kind in the region, Chartered Manager (CMgr) provides a pathway to leadership excellence. It gives aspiring female leaders the skills to stand out. It also helps current leaders to become better managers – equipped to respond to the changing business landscape.
Time for a perspective change
To shift the gender bias in leadership takes more than development. It requires a perspective change. To what extent? And does it rest solely on the cooperation of male leaders? That’s up for debate on March 8th at IML’s annual International Women’s Day event. We’ll explore if ‘her aspiration needs his cooperation’.