Let me begin by sharing the story of a woman, Alice, who recently came through one of our leadership development programs. Alice had always struggled with her confidence, which limited her capacity to perform to her full potential or pursue more advanced leadership roles. Following completion of the program, she returned to work and shortly after, gave a presentation to her team. Her team noticed and reported back to us that there was such a significant improvement in her confidence and presentation skills. They were so impressed that they made the decision to provide this opportunity to all their female leaders by implementing the program internally across the organisation.
Let’s imagine for a moment, that this occurred in every organisation. Imagine that every woman was provided with a dedicated opportunity to develop the areas they most needed to to reach their full potential.
- What would the impact be?
- Do you think it would make a difference to the performance of companies?
- Our broader society and economy?
Tell me more
We’ve been in the game long enough to know that businesses won’t prioritise and invest in initiatives that don’t directly link to company performance, particularly in this climate. The feel-good, nice-to-have story about the woman whose boosted confidence transformed her personal leadership journey, often just isn’t enough to get budgets approved and outcomes prioritised. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be. Because the link between female leaders and enhanced company performance is irrefutable.
A WGEA Gender Equity Insights report released this year found that an increase in the share of senior female managers correlated with a 6.6% increase in the market value of ASX-listed companies, equivalent to AUD$104 million. Hearing figures like these makes it even more difficult to palate the fact that progress in increasing senior female leadership representation has not only stagnated, but has actually decreased. There has only been 1 new female CEO appointed to an ASX200 company in the past year. No, not 10. 1.
Research we conducted during the pandemic found that companies best able to adapt, innovate and achieve high employee engagement were those with gender-balanced leadership teams. Not female-led – and it’s really important to highlight this. Because we aren’t proposing the advancement of female leaders at the expense of men. Our goal is to boost women up to sit alongside men, making the decisions with them, to contribute to the best and most diverse solutions. The reality is that the balance has been thrown so far out, that in order to achieve this equilibrium, we need to focus on and invest in the advancement of women.
Amplifying the call
Organisations are a reflection of the society in which they operate and usually, significant change and progress occurs as a result of broader societal pressures. That’s why so many businesses now have gender equality targets, because our society has called for it. So, how can we make that call even louder? Tie it in to the economic recovery and rebuild post-crisis.
In Australia, it is estimated that the outcome of halving the gap between men and women’s workforce participation would increase GDP by AUD$60 billion by 2038, with cumulative living standards increased by AUD$140 billion. If female employment rates were to increase to match Sweden’s – 60% of working age women employed in full-time roles – there would be a USD$6 trillion boost to OECD GDP.
What individuals, businesses and the government is realising is that as we enter this period of rebuilding, we can simply no longer ignore the elephant in the room of the economic value of increasing female workforce participation and advancement into senior leadership.
I’m in, now what?
The greatest resistance towards changing the status quo comes from those who benefit most from the status quo. One of the greatest challenges, therefore, is education around why a changed status quo is better for everyone, including organisations, society and the economy. Therefore, those armed with these insights have a social responsibility to share them, advocate for the findings and commit to transforming words and ideas into action.