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International Women’s Day 2016: How far have we come in achieving gender parity?

by Kristan De Sousa

International Womans Day

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The theme for 2016 for International Women’s Day (IWD) is ‘Pledge for Parity’ with the goal to increase the pace at which we achieve gender parity. According to the World Economic Forum gender parity has drastically slowed. In 2014 the global gender gap report predicted that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. One year later in 2015, they estimated that the gender gap wouldn't close entirely until 2133.

To promote and celebrate IWD a few of our female leaders speak about what the day means to them and their view of the gender gap in an Australian context.

Kristan De Sousa, Director & member of the Executive Leadership Team

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

IWD is an opportunity to raise awareness for woman about opportunities that are available in non-traditional industries and sectors. Until recently I recruited roles across the technical and engineering space, and there is a huge demand for highly skilled female talent in these areas. One of the most satisfying parts of my job is consulting to industry and woman about opportunities in the market which are traditionally male dominated and the value this diversity can offer.

I also see it as valuable in order to keep the momentum going on important topics such as salary disparity and gender-balanced leadership and solutions in this space.

What is your view of the progress of diversity in the workforce in Australia?

Gender equality is no longer a conversation exclusively between women. Given the majority of those in a position to drive change from a corporate level are male it is important that men are included in the discussion. We know that companies with women board members outperform in return on equity, net income growth and price-to-book value as well as a host of non-financial measures, so it is a commercial discussion as well as a social discussion.

In your opinion what can women do to help drive this agenda?

There needs to be a focus on education to promote solutions. According to the IWD website, organisations must ensure women are exposed to strategic operations and functions to gain the experience needed for senior positions, and set measurable targets for appointing women to leadership.

Amanda Parkes, Research Manager

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

IWD is a great opportunity to celebrate and promote a number of gender issues:

  • Recognition: It is about recognising women who have been pioneers in their chosen fields/industry sectors. Those who have impacted upon the lives of other individuals or communities and forged the way for future generations.
  • Encouragement: It’s an opportunity to encourage woman to take risks, be innovative and have confidence to embark on ideas.
  • Leadership: Ensure there is always a female voice at the leadership table.

What is your view of the progress of diversity in the workforce in Australia?

There are some corporations that have made diversity a strategic pillar and are achieving some great outcomes such as ensuring there is a certain percentage of female representation at the executive level. Some of the banks are making really good inroads.

There are also some fantastic events and forums running events targeted to woman. I’m also seeing more organisations running women in leadership forums/groups.

In your opinion what can women do to help drive this agenda?

  • Continue to push the boundaries in regards to education, equality, equal pay, flexible work arrangements
  • Encourage and support one another, take the time to listen to new ideas or concepts, challenge the status quo when you believe there is a better way to achieve something
  • Women typically are daughters, sisters, wives and mothers often juggling family, home, work and study – our coping mechanisms and ability to prioritise are second to none

Jennifer Kenworthy, Manager

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

International Women’s Day is a celebration of women and a chance to reflect on not only our own success and achievements but those of our mothers, sisters, friends and colleagues.  It is a day to be proud and pass on our gratefulness to the other fabulous women in our lives.

What is your view of the progress of diversity in the workforce in Australia?

I think diversity is an agenda that is encouraged openly across many of the organisations we support but it is not always achieved.  For example, operating in the sales and marketing space – marketing is heavily dominated by females and sales heavily dominated by males.

Whether to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, respect and value difference, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures or root out workplace bias. Each of us can be a leader within our own spheres of influence and commit to take pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity.