Leadership | Diversity | Inclusion

Women are “pioneers” who fight professional stereotypes every day: The Hon. Anna Bligh

“Women are pioneering the economic and social shift in today's society”, the Hon. Anna Bligh told a CEDA audience in Melbourne.

“Women moving out of the domestic sphere is changing everything – economy, workplaces, election debates.”

At the event, part of CEDA’s Women in Leadership series, Ms Bligh discussed the headway women are making – from a time “when Parliament House had no female restrooms” to today.

“Every time we leave the house to go to work … we are pioneering”, she said.

This event asked the question: Is women’s underrepresentation in leadership positions a symptom of gender role stereotyping?

“Eighty six per cent of leaders unconsciously believe women are less competent and assertive than men”, Founder and Director, Psynapse Psychometrics, Dr Jennifer Whelan said.

Dr Whelan pointed out four unconscious beliefs that serve as barriers for women:

  • Women aren’t as ambitious as men;
  • Women don’t have as much “merit” as men;
  • Women don’t have enough confidence; and
  • Women have a different (softer) leadership style.

These perceptions aren’t true, Dr Whelan said. In fact, “the difference in leadership styles between genders is so small you'd need a magnifying glass to see it”.

Company Director, Catherine Walter AM, illustrated how unconscious stereotyping works when she discussed two groups of people being given the same information about the career of a successful entrepreneur. One group was told the entrepreneur was a man, and one group was told the entrepreneur was a woman.

The male was voted higher “hands down on likeability, whether he’d make a better employee and what type of team member he’d be”, she said.

The female was voted much higher as “power-hungry and disingenuous”.