, , , , , , , , ,

The third video in the series of conversations on Feminine Leadership with Dr David Paul…

While I was in Australia a report was issued by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency presenting census data from the last decade showing what little progress women have made in the upper ranks of corporate Australia. Subsequent media coverage trumpeted the headline:  ‘Reform Key to Women’s Progress.’ Unless something radically different is done, most commentators were saying that change is just never going to happen.


63% of the top 500 companies had no female senior execs at all
63% of the top 500 companies (on the Australian Stock Exchange) had no female senior execs. None. And Australia trails its overseas peers with only 9.2% of female board directors (in ASX500 companies). Compare with the UK which has just 13.2% of females on the boards of the top 250 FTSE companies and 16.5% in the USA on Fortune 500 company boards.
The CEO of ANZ Bank Mike Smith was quoted as saying  ”More radical approaches are called for … to drive more women into senior leadership positions … Businesses need to take the time to understand what is needed and  take direct action to ensure more women thrive and advance in our workplaces”.

It is clear that companies need to implement structural change to appoint and develop strong pipelines of female talent.  When a top male leadership team wakes up to the shifts happening across the planet and decides to appoint women they find the queue of women waiting outside the boardroom door has gone. Those who were actually waiting for a boardroom place probably weren’t standing in the line anyway, but they became impatient and left .. some went downstairs and elsewhere in the organisation to part-time roles so they could juggle family life, others walked out the building, some even left their industry … all so that they could find other creative, flexible, more rewarding and nourishing ways to express themselves and make a living.

Why are there less women in management waiting for those top positions?
I asked Dr David Paul why he thought there were less women in management and therefore not waiting in the pipeline of talent for the top jobs. His response is captured  in third video in the second series of conversations on Feminine Leadership.

David said that women have realised that they don’t want to play the male political game anymore, they just want to do the job, get on with it and get home. They don’t want to spend every night working late as many executives are unreasonably expected to do. The masculine culture does not work for them so they seek employment elsewhere often starting their own enterprises. Certainly in the UK & USA, women are behind more start-ups than men. David says this is a huge loss of talent which also impacts the culture of a business when senior and promising women leave.

“There’s a huge gap and now we’ve gone back to the military style of leadership which is, you’ve got a general at the top and we’ve got all the forces down below. Whereas now, we’ve passed that metaphor. We need to say, “How can we partner? How can we expand? How can we grow together?  I think part of the problem with women’s slow progress, with some of the articles that we’re seeing, is that men are fearful of what do we have to give up. Women are fearful of what do we have to give in to?”

What we need in order to see more women stay in management is a whole culture change. Even the chief executive of the ANZ, Mike Smith, is talking about taking a radical approach. We need to involve women in creating a culture change. What’s up for reinvention is the whole nature of work and finding a way to make it a more nourishing and compassionate workspace for women and men.

David continued, “I have a feeling that if women were at senior levels, they would say, “Let’s all take a pay cut at the senior levels but let’s keep the people that we have.” I’m not talking about the corporate deadwood. I’m talking about people who actually add value to the organisation.   I think we need to smash the notion of thinking outside the box, as well. What we need to do is smash the box and start with a completely new shape and say, “What can we create together?”

The article headline in The Australian newspaper says “Reform key to women’s progress”. Let’s take this a step further and turn this the other way round … women ARE the key to reform. Do you agree?

Dr David Paul is a Sydney-based expert in global leadership and complex change.

Watch the video