Leadership | Diversity | Inclusion

Gender equality will benefit us all

“In gender-equal work environments, everybody’s performance lifts,” Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick told a CEDA leadership forum in Adelaide.

Ms Broderick, who steps down in September after eight years in the Commissioner role, stressed the importance of human stories in linking the personal to the public.

“The personal is political,” she said. “It’s the personal that matters to people and sparks real change.

“Too often it’s the human stories that are missing from public debates. But it’s people’s stories that teach us and inspire us the most.”

Ms Broderick reflected on her objectives when she started, the achievements she is most happy with, and the key learnings she will take away with her after eight years of listening.

“Number one is influence. You don’t have to be extraordinary to have influence,” she said. “Wonderful people all over Australia are doing whatever they can with the opportunities in front of them.

“Number two is collaboration. You cannot do it all alone. Find the common ground you share with others and combine forces.

“Number three is about valuing difference and diversity. Women are just as diverse as men. They don’t all start from the same place. And the worst effects of inequality are felt by those with less power, including cultural minorities and people with disabilities.

“The next big learning is about including everybody, actively and intentionally. Make sure everybody feels equally invited to speak and share.

“And remember that data is never enough. When it comes to serious change, we cannot just appeal to the head. We must appeal to the heart, and that means human stories.

“Then it’s important to identify the source of the power in any group or organisation. Take the story to them and get them directly involved.
“Remember, there can be NO legitimate conversation without including the voices of women.”

Ms Broderick was joined for the panel discussion by NAB’s State General Manager of Retail, Gregg Harris; FYFE Managing Director, Mark Dayman; and Adelaide Festival Chief Executive, Karen Bryant.

Karen Bryant stressed that if more male leaders spoke up about their Paid Parental Leave or flexible working arrangements, others would get the message that it won’t disadvantage their careers.

Panel members all agreed on the importance of strong male role models – in families, at schools and in workplaces.

Gregg Harris added that it was about time organisations got serious and, “Mandate accountability – unless you can show gender equality outcomes in your area, you won’t get that promotion or raise or the like.”

“Good men also need to know that they have some responsibility to shut down inappropriate comments or behaviours,” said Mark Dayman. “And to communicate what’s acceptable and what’s not.”

Ms Broderick said: “Gender equality is not the Battle of the Sexes. The battle for equality is one both sexes fight side-by-side together because we all benefit.”

From the blog: Elizabeth Broderick: A reflection on eight years as Sex Discrimination Commissioner

Watch Elizabeth Broderick's address from the opening event in the Women in Leadership series.