A reminder on International Women’s Day: We need to amplify women’s voices

When Justin Trudeau first became Canada’s 23rd Prime Minister, he was asked by a reporter why his decision to have an equal number of men and women in his cabinet was important to him.

His succinct reply, “Because it’s 2015”, was a sign of a welcome commitment to gender parity, although some critics said at the time that it would have been better portrayed as the natural result of the abundant female talent available to him. Eight years later, on the other side of the world – though we have seen some progress, there’s still a way to go on the road to gender equity.

Yes, the current Australian federal cabinet does have a record proportion of women – 10 women and 13 men – but the sign hanging in the shop window does not accurately reflect what’s happening inside.

Gender statistics in the Australian workforce and public-facing roles make disappointing reading

In 2022, according to the government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, women comprised 47.9% of the Australian workforce, but held only:

  • 17.6% of chair positions
  • 31.2% of directorships
  • 19.4% of CEO roles
  • 34.5% of key management posts

Meanwhile, although it’s more anecdotal than hard evidence, a visit to the website of a leading Australian public speakers bureau yields 567 speakers using the filters ‘Australia’ + ‘female speakers’, against 947 speakers using the filters ‘Australia’ + ‘male speakers’. In other words, men in public speaking roles appear to outnumber women by almost 1.7:1.

Additionally, a 2020 global media monitoring project entitled ‘Who Makes the News?’ revealed that, in a sample of 570 stories from 37 Australian news media organisations, females comprised only 32% of the 1706 news sources who were heard or talked about.

These ratios provide some further context around the well-understood challenge of gender equity in senior leadership ranks. It indicates that amplifying women’s voices may be one way of better supporting women.

International Women’s Day – an important reminder that we must continue to focus on supporting women in the workplace

Women represent 50.2% of Australia’s population and 47.9% of its workforce, and their younger cohort is over-represented at the higher levels of education and training. International Women’s Day serves to remind all that we must continue to support and elevate women, in order to make changes that impact these statistics. We need to encourage active participation and create opportunities for women to have their voices heard.

Three simple ways we can support women to make sure they are seen and heard in the workplace

1. Ensure that women are represented at the table

In senior leadership contexts – such as executive meetings and professional forums – the statistics indicate that the male-to-female ratio is often unbalanced. In these instances, we need to ensure that women are represented. Active participation is important. Creating a safe space for open dialogue allows women to feel comfortable speaking up and sharing their opinions. We can do this by actively listening, providing positive feedback, and fostering a culture that values and respects all voices.

There are many successful female leaders and presenters who women can follow for guidance and as inspiration. Women in these positions often encourage other women to not only represent themselves, but to represent all women.

2.   Be there and speak up for those not there

In situations where the gender balance is skewed against women, we must all encourage and support women to make it a priority to be present. We all need to be sponsors and mentors for one another, collaborating rather than competing.

In addition, those who are not present during a conversation or meeting could be unfairly represented or left out. We can all make a conscious effort to speak up for those who are not there, whether they are women or anyone else who may not have had the opportunity to share their perspective. We can also amplify their voices by sharing their ideas and accomplishments with others and advocating for their interests and needs.

Research published in the Harvard Business Review revealed that the most successful women have usually maintained a circle of close female contacts. Women aiming for leadership positions can face hurdles not encountered by men, such as either systemic or unconscious bias. If they have close connections with other women in similar situations, then experiences and knowledge – for example, whether a particular employer has equal opportunities for men and women – can be shared for mutual benefit.

3.   Celebrate the wins

And do it loudly. When (not if) your organisation has something to celebrate that represents a step forward in gender equality – such as the successful completion of a female-led project or a woman receiving a major promotion – make a big deal about it. Frame it in a way that encourages and inspires leaders to do more of it.

This not only recognizes their hard work and contributions, but also inspires and motivates everyone to continue to strive for excellence. We can celebrate these wins by acknowledging and thanking individuals for their achievements, sharing their successes with others, and creating opportunities for everyone to be recognized and rewarded for their efforts. By doing so, we help to create a positive and supportive workplace culture that encourages everyone to do their best.

We need to show every person that they can be inspirational influencers of public opinion, just like Justin Trudeau.

Because it’s 2023.

Strengthen your team, strengthen your business

International Women’s Day is a great reminder that strengthening your leadership team will help you to build a stronger business.

If you would like some advice on improving the leadership potential of your business, contact us today to be put in touch with our Business Advisory team for a no-obligation chat. We can help you get where you want to be.

Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and should not be relied on as advice. It does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. You need to consider your financial situation and needs and seek professional advice before making any decisions based on this information.

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