In recent times, there has been an increased focus in Australia on the value of diversity in the workforce, and in particular (given the recent celebration of International Women’s Day), gender diversity.
In November 2014, Rowland Group Manager Sarah Dixon attended the International Dialogue on Women in Leadership, a G20-related event focused on Section 9 of the G20 Leaders’ Communique.
In Section 9, G20 leaders stated:
“Our actions to increase investment, trade and competition will deliver quality jobs. But we must do more to address unemployment, raise participation and create quality jobs. We agree to the goal of reducing the gap in participation rates between men and women in our countries by 25 per cent by 2025, taking into account national circumstances, to bring more than 100 million women into the labour force, significantly increase global growth, and reduce poverty and inequality.”
The Dialogue, which featured an impressive line-up of international speakers, heard that delivering on this commitment would bring more than 100 million additional women into the labour force across the G20 economies, adding more than $1 trillion to the global economy, and increasing G20 GDP by between 1.2 and 1.6 per cent by 2025.
In Australia, the male labour-force participation rate is 79 per cent, 14 per cent higher than the female rate of 65 per cent. (Source: ABS 2012). For Australia to deliver on its G20 commitment, we need to reduce our own gap by 25 per cent in the next ten years — not an easy ask.
Delegates argued that if Australia is to achieve this female workplace participation target by 2025, we need to dramatically redefine our workplaces.
Innovative companies will be seeking ways to challenge baseline expectations about when, where, and how work will be done, enabling both men and women to better combine work and family equally over time.
Using technology already in our hands (e.g. email, phones, videoconferencing), many head offices should be able to move to a culture where the office is a base of operations more than the required locus of work.
A closer look at Australia’s social and business policies, rather than women’s level of ambition, might explain the lack of senior women in business.
Changing these policies will require creativity, internal planning, and organisation, and the fighting of mundane battles every day in individual workplaces, in legislatures, and in the media.
It is the tedious issues — such as conflicts between school schedules and work schedules, the need to travel at short notice, the insistence that work be done in the office, and ease of access to high-quality, flexible, and affordable childcare — which need to be resolved.
Flexibility for everyone is the key enabler.
At Rowland, where more than half of our senior management team is female, many of our female leaders are successfully combining challenging consulting careers with active motherhood, thanks to flexible work arrangements, technology, and other innovative solutions where scheduling conflicts arise.
Rowland will continue to stay at the forefront of solutions that enable women to contribute and lead in the workforce. Wherever possible, we also encourage our clients to consider the significant benefits that increased female workforce participation can bring to your organisation.