This quote is by legendary US High Court Judge, Ruth Bader-Ginsberg. Ginsburg spent much of her legal career as an advocate for gender equality and women’s rights in the United States. Naturally, I agree that women must be in all places where decisions are made and women shouldn’t be the exception, but sadly they still are.
Women Belong, but ….
Many of you who read this will be well informed about the current status of women in leadership across the world. As someone who is a woman and has held leadership roles since her early twenties, I am weary and frustrated that the subsequent thirty years has shown so little progress. Women are 51% of the population in OECD countries yet …
- Women hold less than 5% of CEO roles
- Women hold 33% of management roles
- 25% of seats on publicly listed boards are held by women
- There is a 22% global gender pay gap
Australia’s 27th Prime Minister, Julia Gillard is the author of this quote and in 2022, is still the only woman to have held that position in my country, Australia. The appalling and misogynistic treatment of Ms. Gillard whilst Prime Minister is well documented, and sadly, according to recent research released by IPSOS and the Global Institute of Women’s Leadership, says women are still subjected to dreadful sexism and bias in Australia. This includes the treatment of and attitudes towards women who do make it to the very top of the leadership ladder.
Like our 27th Prime Minister, I am offended by the way women are still treated. But here is the good news for those of you who want to make a change.
Why Women Must Belong
In 2020 the Bankwest Curtin Centre for Economics released world first research demonstrating a strong and convincing causal relationship between an increase in the number of women in key decision-making positions and subsequent improvements in organisational performance.
Some of the key findings from the report that I know we must pay attention to are:
- Increasing women on boards by 10% or more means an organisation is 6% more likely to outperform its competition on 3 or more KPIs.
- Appointing a woman CEO means an organisation is 12.9% more likely to outperform the competition on 3 or more KPIs.
- Increasing women executives by 10% or more means an organisation is 6% more likely to outperform the competition on 3 or more KPIs.
Yet despite this, and other compelling evidence:
- Women are least likely to be the Chair of the Board, with only 14.1 per cent of women being Board Chairs
- Women make up only 17.1 per cent of company CEOs
- 29.8 per cent of companies have no female representation on their Board and a similar proportion of companies have no women in their key management teams
- Two-thirds of firms in the construction sector have zero female representation on their Boards.
What Else Matters About Women Belonging
There are some MORE seriously good reasons for women to belong in all places where decisions are being made in organisations. Have a look.
- Women make over 85% of purchase decisions. In Australia this equates to approximately $874 billion in consumer spending. [source]
- Across the globe, the Female Economy is currently estimated to be worth $28 Trillion which is a growth market that surpasses the China and India combined markets.[source]
- Women in general, are becoming wealthier. 33% of personal wealth in Australia is held by women and has an estimated compound annual growth rate of 6.5%.[source]
- It is estimated that women in the developed world will control two thirds of consumer wealth within the next decade.[source]
- But …. 91% of women say advertisers do not understand them! [source]
Perhaps this is because when the products, services and experiences are being developed, then marketed, there are simply not been enough women around the design and decision-making table? By having women in key decision-making roles, we can attend to the specific needs of girls and women, and help to tap into the economic advantage that the female economy can create for organisations and society.
To attract, engage and retain more women employees, leaders AND customers, women must be at every decision-making table so the organisation can outperform.
Here is what to do:
- Make a visible, verbal, ongoing commitment to a gender balanced organisation
- Pay attention to your own mindsets and bias and those of other decision makers about women and leadership;
- Confront the brutal truths about your organisations current gender equality performance – know what your strengths are and play to them but find the gaps and work out what to do about that.
- Invest resources (Time, People, Money) into closing your gender gaps. Please don’t expect women to solve this on their own. Men and women must work together.
- Hold your organisational leaders accountable to deliver against gender targets just the same way you hold them accountable for other metrics.
- Create opportunities for women to develop and demonstrate their leadership skills.
- DO NOT ASSUME you know what women want. If you truly want more women in your organisation and in leadership, then ask them what’s working for them and what could be better.
And finally, as I have proven, women DO belong in all places where decisions are being made. And in your organisation, that should not be the exception.
Resources to Close the Leadership Gender Gap
- Walk a Mile: an activity for inclusive leaders who want to learn more about unearned privilege.
- The Inclusive Leaders Conversation Guide: How Executives can ask women about their lived experience in their workplace.
- Engaging Male Allies: Close the workplace leadership gender gap by engaging male allies.