Is Corporate Australia Embracing Gender Equality in the Boardroom?

In a banking and finance forum in 2011, Carolyn Hewson bemoaned that Australia’s lack of ‘nanny culture’ was detrimental to its success. Three years later, the country has seen an increase in female directorships on ASX 200 boards. From December 2010 to February 2014, the figure increased from 10.7% to 17.6%. While this has been a notable improvement on promoting gender equality in workplace leadership, you can see that corporate Australia still has a long way to go before women fully climb the corporate ladder.

In 2012, Crikey.com ranked board members of companies larger than $50 billion based on the combined market capitalisation of their companies. Unsurprisingly, the list (displayed below) is dominated by male board directors. Only Carolyn Hewson and Jane Hemstritch made it to the Top Ten.

While the number of women holding corporate leadership roles in ASX 200 companies has increased over the last few years and the abovementioned business firms are already taking actions, it seems that some of the country’s top-earning companies are still reluctant to appoint women, judging by the list released by Crikey.com. A report by the Australian Institute of Company Directors revealed that as of February 2014, a total of 42 boards in the ASX 200 don’t have any female directors even with the Australian Securities Exchange’s gender diversity policy.

But why are ASX 200 companies, or any other company for that matter, still reluctant to appoint women to the upper echelons or be given bigger roles in the workplace? Surely it isn’t a case of the assumption that only men possess the skills and knowledge needed to run a top-earning company? Could it be that women are not making themselves known to the decision makers or that men appoint ‘like’ people to their Boards and Executive teams?

When it comes to qualifications and educational attainment, women are faring relatively better than their male counterparts. According to a recent report by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 87.8% of women aged 20 to 24 have attained year 12 qualifications or above, as compared to 84.1% of men in the same age bracket. In addition, 5.1% of women aged 15 to 64 have attained a postgraduate degree, compared to 4.9% of men. Despite this, however, the same report revealed that most women are still earning less and are given fewer opportunities to sit in the board and assume key positions.

In this rapidly changing world, companies and institutions should not overlook talent simply because of gender. Otherwise, they will remain stagnant, being unable to capitalise in the talents and skills female role models and workers can offer. The better performing companies have women in their Executive teams and on their Boards and diversity is a major strategic initiative.

And with the growing number of female entrepreneurs and businesswomen who built their companies from start-up and are now earning millions of dollars each year like Vicky Teoh, Lesley Gillespie and Naomi Milgrom to name a few, women have proven that like men, they are as capable or even better at running a successful company.

It’s time to give more female role models the opportunities to add value to organisations in the top roles.

What is your experience in attaining greater professional success? Are women holding themselves back? We will know when we have ‘made it’ when we no longer have to have these conversations!

Let me know your thoughts.

Donny

It is lonely at the top, but it doesn’t have to be

It is lonely and isolating at the top. It is.

There are expectations and pressure from boards and shareholders, and responsibilities to leadership teams and the executive. There are often conflicting priorities, time constraints and ongoing financial pressures. Add to that self-imposed pressure around what a particular role means for career success.

It can be hard to find someone that you trust to talk to about these issues. Particularly, someone who truly understands. Sometimes CEOs or MDs have a trusted mentor who has been there, done that. But often, the top feels like a very lonely and isolating place.

And there is the unspoken question, particularly for first time CEOs and other C-suiters: “Am I doing this right?” “When will they find out I am an imposter?”

The imposter syndrome is well documented: “Impostor syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt and feelings of intellectual fraudulence. The impostor syndrome is associated with highly achieving, highly successful people.”  It was originally associated with women but recent research indicates that men suffer in similar numbers.

We often talk about the difficulties that women have in both reaching leadership positions and then what they encounter while they are there. I would argue that despite the glass ceiling, despite the challenges presented by trying to balance a career and a family and despite it being lonelier (in that there are fewer women in executive and board levels positions), women do have a secret weapon.

Women (although increasingly men are getting it too) are hearing the message of the likes of Brene Brown and realising that being vulnerable, that speaking your truth in a safe place can provide extraordinary opportunities to grow and develop.

Increasingly, women are seeking out counsel, mentorship, guidance, support and growth from networks and organisations such as Behind Closed Doors. They are putting to bed their imposter syndrome demons within a safe environment.

Men, of course, have always networked, whether on the golf course or increasingly as part of the lycra brigade. But networking is not the same. Networking provides contacts. Networking does not necessarily provide support.

My observation (again a broad one, and there are always exceptions that prove the rule) is that there are fewer places where men can to learn to support each other, and to grow. Fewer places that actively encourage being vulnerable. And that can make it a pretty lonely place to be.

Of course there is one thing being vulnerable in the safe haven of a group such as Behind Closed Doors and quite another taking it back to your organisation, but that’s a post for another day! In the meantime, I encourage you to read the works of Brene Brown if you have yet to do so, or watch the Tedx talk that made her famous.

Tammy Tansley is our Guest Blogger and the Principal of Tammy Tansley Consulting, a boutique firm specializing in culture change and workforce performance (www.tammytansley.com.au)

Persuasion, Manipulation, and Influence – What’s the Difference?

When you mention the words “persuade” and “manipulate,” the word “influence” isn’t usually far behind. Influence is basically the “power to change or affect something” or the “power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen.” While influence can be interchangeable with persuasion, the important point here is that it is done indirectly and the listener is compelled to do something without being told directly to do so.

The word “influence” itself is a neutral term. It doesn’t necessarily mean that when you influence someone, the results will be positive for both parties. Therefore, it is up to you, the influencer, to use the power of influence to drive things in a more positive direction.

Experts say everyone has the power to persuade and/or influence others. But the key is knowing how to do it effectively, especially if you’re dealing with a large group of diverse people.

1. Strive to understand before being understood.

You cannot force others to do something unless they are willing. Sure, you can threaten, bully or manipulate them into completing a task but the results are not sustainable or satisfactory.

If you want to persuade, or better yet, influence others towards a positive direction, always strive to understand before being understood. Listen and think about what they want and how they would want to be influenced for a particular work or situation. Doing thorough research on how others would benefit from your solution or proposal could make a huge difference in making your influence more lasting and effective.

2. Be someone worth listening to.

Having credibility is very important as an influencer, both in the workplace and life in general. Being an expert at something incites interest and respect from others. Therefore, before you persuade others to act according to your idea, ensure you are someone worth listening to. Build your authenticity and credibility, which comes from experience and your past and present achievements. Determine how you can present them and lead by example to ensure you get the best outcomes.

3. Know strengths and limitations.

The best influencers understand they can never know and do everything. They seek help when they need to. To be an effective influencer, understand what you know and don’t know about the person(s) you are trying to influence.

4. Be an effective communicator.

Adapt your style of communication to the person or situation you’re dealing with. And when things go wrong, don’t blame others. Holding people accountable for their actions is important, but blaming them for mistakes can sow discord and affect morale. Always remember the difference between accountability and blame is the way you communicate and address a problem or situation.

5. Develop relationships.

To be able to effectively influence others, an influencer needs to build and maintain trust. Getting people to trust you isn’t a one-time thing. It should be cultivated and maintained. One way to build trust is to develop and grow strong relationships. Ensure that you’re genuinely interested in them as an individual and that you’re not just after a win for yourself.

Are you a good influencer? How do you measure your success as an influencer with key decision makers?

Share your thoughts with us.