‘Currently, we [Australia] have both one of the world’s lowest rates of educated women participating in the workforce and one of the world’s highest rates of female education. In other words, we are getting the world’s worst return on the multi-billion dollar investment we make in female education every year.’ – David Gonski
Any business person of worth would find it hard to disagree with David Gonski’s statement in terms of return on investment.
So what really is going on?
There is much debate in the media backing up the infamous glass ceiling as being the primary barrier to women’s advancement in the corporate world. That invisible yet ever present checkpoint which, statistically, is definitely present; but of course, as we all know, glass is made to be broken – or more satisfyingly, shattered.
But what about the sticky floor?
I’m not necessarily referring to my days of working in pubs in the UK and the post Saturday night spilt pints clean up – but think about it for a minute.
Is there something to be said in the statement that women do in fact hold themselves – or ourselves – back?
Fact – there is a massive pot of under-utilised talent is out there. Fact – nothing comprehensive or practical seems to be happening to get said talent into positions of influence or higher management in the corporate arena. So where does the main issue lie in the translation of this theoretical talent to the practical?
There continues to be a disconnect between what leaders are saying and the reality of corporate life and culture; the unconscious bias continues to exist creating ongoing challenges to diversity and of course the cultural conundrums of the pay gap, child care opportunities and flexible working conditions don’t help to solve the problem.
And, to add to the discussion, perhaps controversially, perhaps not – I do believe wholeheartedly that we can be our own worst enemies. I call them the Mini-Mes. Self doubt. An almost self-hatred of putting ourselves forward and out there, of sponsoring and supporting each other, of comparing ourselves to others, of not necessarily believing that each of us has a choice and can take ownership of our career direction and path. Of blaming others and external forces for us not getting what we want.
Of keeping our stilettos stuck to that sticky floor.
I have been inspired this week by some amazing stories of success from some of our younger LBDG members. Their determination, their passion, their self belief, their active seeking out of mentors, sponsors and likeminded men and women to support them on their journey; their willingness to openly have the conversation, to take ownership of their own career and ask for the business or the promotion – these traits are now delivering international job prospects, big promotions and achievements of sales targets that a few years ago were but a dream.
I see these same values reinforced time and again amongst LBDG members – women in corporate and in their own businesses working together, driving business, taking ownership of the successes and the not so good times – above all having the grit and resilience to keep going towards their dreams and above all doing it on their terms and with a team of like-minded women around them driving them on, encouraging new initiatives, thinking and solutions.
I have myself experienced that glass ceiling and yes it is there. But we have a choice. We can either give in to the soundproofing and walk away, accepting the situation – and staying muffled by the thick glass and well and truly stuck to that sticky floor.
Or we can unstick the stilettos one step at a time, hold our heads high, operate in our own individual spotlights, take ownership of our careers and work collaboratively to smash that glass ceiling to pieces.
The conversation is starting. It’s time for us to shine and individually, and collectively, change the game if we want to.
As Brian Hartzer, Westpac’s Chief Executive, Australian Financial Services says:
“To me, productivity is really about three things: being more innovative, helping more people get into and stay in the workforce and, most of all, it’s about helping people achieve their full potential. What does that have to do with gender equity? Well, everything. We know innovation comes with diversity of thinking. We know diversity in executive teams and in the boardroom helps drive better financial results. We know the rise in female employment has boosted Australia’s economy by 22% per cent since 1974. And we know closing the gap between male and female employment rates would boost GDP by up to 13%.”
“That’s why it makes economic sense for Australia.”
Yes it makes sense.
And I want it.