18 Full Forwards and Not a Defender In Sight

If this is the first time you’ve read anything I have written or posted, you may not realise that I simply adore Australian Rules Football.  You may also not realise that I write, work, volunteer, advocate and agitate for gender equality. What do these two central cores of my life have in common? A hell of a lot as it turns out.

Picture Your Favourite Sports Team

Picture this. Your favourite sporting team runs onto the field/court. In the case of AFL, this would see my beloved West Coast Eagles running on. 18 players who run on and take their designated positions. Their role in the team is set. There are players who are in the forward line. They have to attack and kick goals. There are players in the back line. They are defenders and prevent the opposition from scoring. Then there’s the midfield who are the glue between backs and forwards and run the ball out of defence into attack. The combination of specific, diverse skillsets make these teams work and win.

Imagine this. When your favourite team runs out, you see 18 players. They are all goal kickers. They are all forwards. There is no defence. There is no midfield. Just goal kickers. A team of 18 full forwards. Crazy huh?

Not so crazy. Because this scenario plays out every single day in sport and in business in Australia. When your (favourite) industry team runs onto the equivalent of a sporting field and they do not have diversity of skill, experience, culture and gender at the top tables, then you have the equivalent of a football team with 18 full forwards and not a defender in sight. In your business.  Looking after your customers, clients, members and people.

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The Scoreboard Doesn’t Lie

Don’t take my word for it. Check out these statistics which demonstrate the very poor scoreboard for gender in Australia.

In the Australian sporting sector, women are under-represented in key decision-making roles. Women make up:

  • 3.9% of CEO’s
  • 13.4% of Chairs
  • 25.3% of Directors
  • 27.4% of Key Management Personnel

In Australian business, men are over-represented in key decision-making roles. Men make up:

  • 83% of Australian companies have a male CEO.
  • 86% of Australian companies are chaired by men.
  • Nearly three-quarters of reporting organisations have a male-only team of key management personnel.

Why Am I Not Redundant Yet?

It’s November 2018 as I write this. Seriously, I thought this issue, along with my work, would have been redundant by now. But incredibly and frustratingly, it is not.

I am incredibly frustrated that the men who run this country, business and sport cannot see the incredible disadvantage they put their organisations at by failing to diversify their top teams. I am incredibly bewildered that shareholders, clients, members and other stakeholders are not holding these executives to account for their underperformance. Because lets face it, if Adam Simpson (Head Coach of my beloved West Coast Eagles) sent 18 Josh Kennedy-like full forwards running onto the MCG, we’d be calling for his head.

So, check out your organisations top team. If there are 18 full forwards and not a defender in sight, we need to talk.

Michelle is the founder of Advancing Women, an enterprise providing advisory services on equality, inclusion and gender diversity in sport and in business.  If your organisation needs to move gender diversity from conversation to action, then contact Michelle

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