CEO commitment required to resolve gender diversity
Posted : Wednesday, February 29, 2012
CEOs need to commit to dealing with gender diversity in tangible
ways for progress to be made Nestle Australia Ltd,
Chairman, Elizabeth Proust AO
told a CEDA audience in Brisbane.
To overcome gender diversity, Ms Proust said the following
issues need to be addressed:
- Equal pay;
- Unconscious bias;
- Exposing recruitment practices to scrutiny; and
- Hiring people for their talent, and not hiring people in their
She also said that companies need to make mentors available to
"These issues need to be dealt with in a tangible way, the CEO
must commit to diversity in all forms - without the commitment of
the CEO, tangible progress cannot be made," she said.
"This is a business issue not an equity issue."
"Women constitute about 35 per cent of directors on Commonwealth
Government boards however; women are only represented on eight per
cent of the ASX top 200 private sector boards."
Ms Proust acknowledged that the ASX was attempting to change
that figure by introducing guidelines for the number of women on
boards and in senior positions. This is to be reported by
organisations in their annual report each year.
Despite progress being made she highlighted, "it will be
interesting to see the inventive excuses made as there is still a
large number of companies with no women on their boards."
Ms Proust commented that the policy and practices in the private
sector mirror the public sector, but change isn't occurring because
attitudes have not changed, "in some cases, the percentage of women
in senior roles in the private sector is going backwards."
From her time in the private sector, Ms Proust emphasised the
dysfunctional nature of corporate organisations.
"Success is more easily achieved by women moving organisations
or sectors than by staying and attempting to succeed in one
"When women do stay in the one organisation, they are usually
more successful in the public sector than the private sector.
"Good policies and practices have changed attitudes in the
public sector, but in some areas of the private sector, few women
hold senior positions," she said.
"When mentoring women, a major occurring theme was the toxic
nature of the corporate world and how uncomfortable many women feel
in that world.
"Most women look to their own behaviours or skills to explain
why they are struggling to fit in, it takes them a while to realise
it is the culture that is the problem.
"If you stay and fight you may eventually reach a senior
position and be part of the change that is needed, but usually a
rational person will leave.
"This reinforces the predominate culture and is a poor business
practice. It leaves the boardroom and executive team looking
nothing like its customer base let alone the wider Australian
When asked about what companies can do to keep women, Ms Proust
said establishing flexible work arrangements and providing women
with role models, networking opportunities and mentoring programs
would assist in providing support.
She also highlighted it's about balancing both your career and
that of your partner - get as much assistance as you can afford, it
pays off in the longer run in terms of salary.
Lastly, she encouraged all women to take control, "no-one is
going to manage your career, you are responsible for it."
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