Three ways you can #BalanceForBetter this International Women’s Day

Today, on International Women’s Day we celebrate the collective achievements of women and raise our voices on the issue of gender equality. I’m purpose-driven, so I’m am vitally aware of the importance of making a positive impact for women, every day. As leaders, we need to invest in initiatives and practices that encourage #BalanceForBetter.

We’ve made some progress — board and leadership diversity is improving and #MeToo initiated an open discussion about workplace sexual harassment. But we still have a long way to go before gender equality is a reality.

Here are my thoughts on what we need to do in organisations to #BalanceForBetter.

1. Address your culture

I recently spoke to Tarla Lambert at Women’s Agenda on the role of workplace culture. The tone is most definitely set at the top — the board needs to send a clear message on their gender diversity expectations and this message needs to cascade throughout the organisation.  But the board isn’t solely responsible. Everyone in the organisation needs to be accountable and demonstrate that they live up to the cultural expectations. 

Organisations are microcosms of society. And although organisations are governed by rules and regulations, they are essentially governed by people. People bring personalities, behaviours and social norms to the workplace.

Culture is driven by formal and informal systems. Many organisations have formal systems in place. But, where the rubber hits the road really is in those informal systems.

Informal systems are the things that inform culture. As ASIC has been reinforcing on the topic of culture, what you walk past is what you accept. Organisations need to crack these informal systems to make a difference.

2.  Align gender diversity to your growth strategy

As covered in Governance Directions, companies that are more gender and culturally diverse are more likely to outperform financially. McKinsey & Company’s report, Delivering through Diversity, found that organisations in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability and 27% more likely to have superior value creation.

More importantly, these diverse organisations were found to better:

  • attract top talent
  • improve their customer centricity, employee satisfaction and decision-making
  • secure their license to operate.

We need to be more accountable as business leaders and ensure that there are measurable KPIs in place. And that as part of our balanced culture, these KPIs are understood and embraced as part of the organisation’s DNA.

3. Bring men and women on the journey

I’m really honoured to represent an organisation that has a 70% female leadership team and 79 per cent female staff overall. But I come from the built environment, where I spearheaded Consult Australia’s Male Champions of Change consortium, who co-signed a charter to collaborate and advance gender equity and women in leadership. Those champions are accountable for their practices and report on their progress. And I witnessed the impact of that initiative firsthand.

Momentum for social and organisational change will stall if we only engage half of our population/staff in the conversation. We will only achieve #BalanceForBetter if we recognise that balance requires us to question all of our beliefs about traditional roles, of men and women, of ambition and caring, and of home and work.

I believe we all have a role to drive the #BalanceForBetter. I’m excited for the future and seeing the benefits of a more gender-balanced world. Enjoy today’s International Women’s Day, however, you’re celebrating!

Women in Governance

Want to continue the conversation?
If you’re interested in networking with influential leaders and openly discussing ongoing gender diversity issues, join one of our Women in Governance events running around the country in late March.

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