I attended the recent Marie Claire success summit in Sydney. I wanted to attend because I feel strongly that women in work in Australia need men to be actively engaged on this issue of gender equality. I felt I needed to be a part of the conversation that is going on. I was one of 2 men who attended the summit that was attended by over 700 women delegates. We enjoyed listening to amazing women speakers who had powerful messages to share.
Frankly, I was surprised so few men attended. Gender equality is not simply a women’s issue. It is a whole of community issue. The business case is now done and dusted, gender equality is a good thing and we must collectively and resolutely resolve this issue. Just as Sheryl Sandberg through her book called for women to ‘lean in’ and to participate, so it is for men.
Through my work I hear men say “I just don’t see inequality”, “it is not really an issue in 2014”. However, just because gender inequality is not ‘seen’, does not mean it does not exist. It does.
Men in denial or worse, men who are disinterested or disengaged are in fact adding to the problem instead of being involved in the solution. Risk to Business continues to investigate matters of discrimination, sexual harassment and workplace bullying throughout Australia. Our own research in clearly indicates it is still going on in Australia. On occasion we are perplexed about how those behaviours can still occur in the 21st century.
Gender Inequality – Fast Facts:
• There is an 18.2% pay gap between genders across the board in Australia;
• Of the 226 seats in the Federal Parliament, 69 are held by women, and women comprise 29.0 per cent of all parliamentarians in Australia. Only have one woman holding a top job in the cabinet. Women hold half the voting power in Australia;
• 36 of the ASX200 still have no female representation on Boards and the latest document states the percentage of women on ASX 200 boards is 18.6% (31 August 2014) according to the AICD;
• The average superannuation account balance for women was $40,475, compared to $71,645 for men. Men have round 63% of total superannuation account balances, compared to 37% for women. Most women live longer and will likely retire without sufficient funds to sustain them;
• Like Australia, women in the US continue to outpace men in educational achievement, but women’s participation has stalled in progress at the top of any industry. In the US women hold around 14% of Fortune 500 executive-officer positions and about 17% of board seats, numbers that have barely improved over the last decade.
Women do not need us men to ‘fix’ them, or to fix the ‘problem’, but to work alongside them and with them to overcome the clear inequalities that exist in Australia.
I heard Elizabeth Broderick speak powerfully of her concerns around gender inequality, and how important the male champions of change program is to change. A few days later Elizabeth Broderick received an award and recognition as the most influential woman in 2014. Her Male Champions of Change program, which puts powerful men at the forefront of updating attitudes about the capability and place of women at top levels of business, is being replicated in other states, and in various industries. These male champions are ‘leaning in’. More action is needed.
So, I pose the question. What can you do as a man, a husband, a business owner, operator, manager, a leader, and a father, do to lean in? Think about it and get involved in debate and action. What will your legacy be on this important issue? If you need help on a starting point, contact me.