Every year at budget time, versions of refreshed women’s budgets or women’s economic statements come out. Albeit with good intention, they are mostly incremental changes without resolve or conviction to actually drastically shift the landscape.
Change is uncomfortable, and this can be seen in the hesitation to formulate significant change in the budget at scale.
This is particularly the case when it comes to the resistance to increasing gender representation in senior positions, which flows on to corporate Australia. By default, it brings the government’s own diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and progress into the spotlight and shines a light on the noticeable gap between ‘intention’ and ‘action’ and furthermore, progress.
As budget and election time nears, we’d like to see a shift from ‘refresh’ to ‘revolutionise’ and be able to look to the government with confidence to set an example for leaders and organisations to create the right pipeline for female advancement, and fastrack gender representation in corporate Australia.
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Here are three ways this can happen.
1. Government needs to represent the diversity of the population they represent
How would the world be if more heads of state represented the diversity of their people? Could this foster more trust and affinity if individuals felt their voice was being represented in decision-making that affects the entire nation? This, as we know, has historically not been the case in Australia.
The value of diversity in the private sector is crucial for connecting with and best serving your customer base, so it is even more important in a sector that affects every individual in the nation.
Let’s push for more key decision makers being culturally diverse women, with different life experiences and economic status, who represent the intersectionality of the different groups that make up our rich Australian culture.
2. Reverse mentoring and allyship for men
At the Dream Collective, we have been focusing on a societal shift away from ‘fixing women’ towards equipping men to enable them. This is because we know that when men are involved in, and actively drive, gender equality initiatives, they are exponentially more effective. Who better then to lead this charge than those at the government level?
To drive this, it would be powerful to see male government leaders become active champions of gender equality by engaging in initiatives like reverse mentoring — when junior employees act as a mentor to senior leaders. While reverse mentoring can be met with resistance (like anything), there is immense value in decision-makers being connected to individuals that have lived experiences and can share first-hand accounts of challenges.
For the government, this would result in it being better equipped to develop policies that effectively meet the needs of women.
Often when it comes to women in leadership, what the government introduces is not what will make the biggest impact or what is most needed. The focus should be on tangible initiatives that create consistent and structured opportunities for male leaders to be exposed to the challenges that women are facing.
3. Compensation tied with progress
The government could take a leaf out of the private sector’s book when it comes to introducing incentives to drive personal buy-in from the top, which is next to impossible to achieve progress without.
One such example is Salesforce, which recently announced it would be tying executive compensation to implementation of such policies. This is synonymous with the sentiment that diversity, equity and inclusion is not a ‘nice to have’ but a minimum, essential requirement to operate, in any sector.
For advancing women in leadership, important metrics include rates of promotion for women or the number of women personally advocated for through sponsorship.
What gets measured gets done and by introducing not only personal accountability, but incentives, progress is far more likely to eventuate.