The fact we need to celebrate an International Women’s Day at all speaks volumes about the way women continue to be underrepresented in the corporate world, media, government and many other areas of day-to-day life.
While the day may help put the pressure on organisations to up the ante when it comes to being truly diverse and truly focused on having more women in the workforce, I’d love a future where we don’t need a dedicated day to remind the world that women are an integral part of the puzzle.
With almost 51 per cent of the Australian population being female, it stands to reason that there’s a massively under-utilised talent pool at every organisation’s disposal. So businesses need to do more than just strive for gender equality. It’s about building a workplace where women can thrive.
So how can we achieve this?
A good place to start is with some very clear targets and holding senior leaders accountable.
Setting recruitment targets is important because what gets measured gets managed. If women make up half the population, there is no reason organisations can’t set the same target for the workplace.
It’s also crucial that recruiters are aware of the biases and actively look to recruit with greater diversity and a firm commitment to correcting the imbalance in mind.
Being an effective leader in today’s business world is about helping people learn and grow to fulfill their potential. And doing so without any conscious or unconscious bias that precludes anyone because of their gender, culture or other qualities that bring diversity, creativity, enthusiasm and success to any workplace.
When we look at CEOs and boards, women are hugely underrepresented. We have seen the power of stakeholders and shareholders when encouraging environmental change. Imagine the possibilities if the same level of lobbying and activism went into demanding gender diversity and balance on boards and in senior executive teams.
It’s taken so many years to get to where we are today with equality and diversity – yet we are still seeing disparities in female representation, pay and opportunities. According to the World Economic Forum, it will take another 136 years to close the global gender gap. What we need is radical change and a collective effort from government, advocacy groups, social enterprises, communities, and businesses. Until then, while we may continue to make progress, it won’t be at a level that will see us get to the point that we no longer have to talk about gender equality or diversity.
Change will only come if the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing. It’s happening, but we need to push harder.
When the time comes that we don’t need a day dedicated to celebrating women, we will know we have made a difference. Until then, there is still a lot of work required.