Just How Wide is The Global Leadership Gender Gap?
Just How Wide is The Global Leadership Gender Gap? And what do we do about closing it?

It’s my job to both keep an eye on the global leadership gender gap and to help my clients in business and sport close it.   I am sad to say that the world has achieved painfully slow progress towards closing this gap. OK, ok so I know that’s not a major newsflash for many of you. However, to bring you completely up to date just how wide the global leadership gender gap is, keep reading:

  • Men occupy 74.42% of all seats in parliaments globally [source}
  • Men occupy 61.5% of all seats in all parliaments in Australia [source]
  • Men occupy 79.4% of all board seats on publicly listed companies globally [source]
  • Men occupy 71% of all board seats on publicly listed companies in Australia [source]
  • Men occupy 95% of CEO roles globally [source]
  • Men occupy 81.7% of CEO roles in Australia [source]
  • Men occupy 77% of executive roles globally [source]
  • Men occupy 66.6% of executive roles in Australia {source]

So, in other words, women are STILL not in all the places where decisions are being made (with a nod to The Notorious RBG!) The global leadership gap yawns as widely as it ever has done and combined with other measures of women’s potential (social, health and economic) means we are still over 200 years away from global gender equality.

 Let’s Get Real About the Leadership Gender Gap

What does this mean for businesses and women across the world? It means that the most powerful decision making and society shaping roles are not representative of the diversity of the citizens they serve. As a result, women and other minority groups can continue to expect poorer, less focused outcomes when policy is legislated, resources and funding allocated, and decisions are made about their lives. It also means that those groups who hold power and influence are underperforming. Because their decision making is unlikely to be the best it can be as the group does not bring cognitive diversity and diversity of lived experience to the table. It goes without saying that women and others in minority are more likely to have negative outcomes and that my friends, is unacceptable!

WTF Hasn’t There Been More Progress?

The business case for workplace gender equality is proven. I am not going to share it. Go HERE if you do need proof, beyond doing the right thing, that women deserve to be able to reach their full career and leadership potential AND that it is imperative for society as a whole that together, we close the leadership gender gap.  But, if this is true, doesn’t that mean that executives, leaders and managers should just get on with creating and sustaining workplace gender equality? And, then WTF haven’t we seen more progress?

Maybe it is because leaders (who are predominantly male of Anglo Celtic backgrounds) have not taken deliberate and purposeful action to increase their own awareness about the global leadership gender gap. Michael Kimmel has given a Ted Talk which eloquently (and humorously) talks to the phenomenon of white male privilege. Translated, this means that men who are white do not see or perceive their own gender and as a result, they do not see the barriers to full workforce and leadership participation by women or other people in minority groups.

OK OK I Get the Message

Awesome! You know it’s time to stop talking and start doing to close the leadership gender gap. You also know that “addressing gender equality within organisations will not happen accidentally, and like any other business issue, a strategic and systematic approach is required.” 

Here are 5 steps to get started.

  1. Get Knowledgeable

There is a range of reasons for a lack of progress when it comes to the leadership gender gap. Reasons include structural (systems, policy, process) and cultural (bias, societal beliefs about gender roles, lack of female role models) which require understanding at an organisational and employee cohort level.

Leaders should ask: What are the current numbers of women at all levels in my organisation? Where does the leadership gender gap begin to widen? Why does it widen? What is it like to work around here, for women and men! Spend some time undertaking qualitative and quantitative research to ensure you are aware of what the current state is and where the most impact can be had.

  1. Get Serious

Strategy, targets and transparency. Develop a strategy, set targets and be transparent about closing the leadership gender gap in your place of work. Be honest about where you are now and the path the business is going to take. Make the right leaders accountable for communicating and embedding the strategy and the targets into the organisational operating rhythm.

We know that an engaged workforce is imperative for business success. Employees overwhelmingly want to feel valued in their workplace, therefore a culture of transparency, accountability and understanding that women are recognised for their uniqueness, their talent and the value they create is a business imperative for progressive, forward-thinking companies. Communicate, communicate, communicate throughout the journey to diversity and showcase when the wins and bet practice starts to occur.

  1. Get Organised

Leaders often launch helter-skelter into diversity initiatives without understanding the what and the why. This is inherent with danger (and cost!) as the initiative, training or resources allocated may not be targeted and tailored to where the greatest need is.  Know the diversity numbers are. Know what your target state is. Allocate funding. Allocate time!

  1. Get resourced

Who have you got designing the strategy to close the leadership gender gap? Is the HR manager? Is it a business leader? Is it a woman? Is it a team? Allocating resources to achieve a more diverse, equitable and equal workforce isn’t the accountability of just the HR manager. It is the accountability of the business leader to ensure that, like any other business imperative that requires a positive outcome for customers, shareholders and stakeholders, that the right people, process and tools are allocated.  This means time, funding, advocacy and creating a culture where the whole team is mobilising and motivated to achieve the shared objectives for an inclusive, gender-equal workplace.  

  1. Get done

There is a great saying ‘Done is better than perfect.’  Businesses waiting for the perfect time, the perfect strategy, the perfect team are going to be left behind in the race for the best, brightest and most talented women. They are also going to get left behind in the race for sustainable high performance.  Interventions to close the leadership gender gap in an enduring and sustainable manner can be both tactical and strategic. However, the characteristic most common to organisations that are successfully navigating the journey is a systematic, deliberate and accountable approach by the organisation’s leaders.

A Worthy Endeavour

Closing the global leadership gender gap is my life’s work and a very worthy endeavour.  However, just like the worthy endeavour, you are about to embark upon in your organisation (see what I did there?) the journey to a gender-equal society is a journey, with arguably no end because of the many phases and opportunities that are identified over a long period of time.  

We all know that the journey to a sustainably diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace is a worthy one. I know that leaders who are deliberate about increasing their knowledge and skills along with allocating time and resources will be major contributors to closing the global leadership gender gap.

If you are ready to move your workplace culture to one where every human can reach their full potential, then contact me, because I can help!

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