Tasmania has a proud history of ‘firsts’; the first state to introduce compulsory education, the first state to formally apologise to Indigenous Australians, and most recently the first state to have ‘gender optional’ on birth certificates.
Tasmania’s population is steadily increasing year on year, from 510,000 in 2011 to 520,000 in 2018.
Could the state also be the first to achieve equal numbers in women leaders?
The island state has produced many of Australia’s most influential women: Dame Enid Lyons (the first woman in Federal Cabinet in 1949), Ida West (Aboriginal elder, author and social activist) and Mary Elizabeth Donaldson (now Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Countess Monpezat).
It comes as a surprise then that, although the state’s population is increasing, the number of women employees has dropped by 3% over the past year. It’s an even greater one that less than two in five leadership positions are held by women.
The Tasmania’s Women’s Strategy 2018-21 recognises that “female talent remains one of the most under-used resources in Australia and women continue to be under-represented in leadership positions throughout Australia.
“There is strong evidence that more women in leadership is good for the government, private and community sectors, yet women wanting to pursue leadership opportunities continue to experience barriers.”
These barriers include structural (unconscious bias or gender stereotyping), situational (inflexible working hours or lack of child care) and personal (lack of female role models).
The business benefits offered by empowering more women leaders are varied and many, however some of the most notable include:
Better problem-solving and decision making- Researchers worldwide agree that diversity of thought leads to better problem solving. Just as many hands make short work, by collaborating with coworkers of mixed nationality, gender and sexual orientation, dialogue ensues and the resulting decision is more objective and well thought-out than if a like-minded group made the conclusion.
Results talk- Businesses with at least 30% women in leadership positions are 15% more profitable, as cited on vic.gov.au. Diverse companies are more creative, have better brand reputation and employee engagement which translates to significantly increased net margins.
What’s more, a report by Mckinsey found that teams with a male to female ratio between 40 and 60 per cent produce more sustained and predictable results than their less balanced counterparts.
Harness a broader talent pool- By elevating women to executive positions, role models are established and possibilities opened in the minds of female students and graduates.
When industries see equal numbers in gender for employment candidacy, companies are put in the position to select from the widest possible talent pool and recruit the best person for the role.
Reduce the cost of recruitment and turnover- Workplace culture and a lack of inclusion are one of the biggest factors driving employees to other companies. Networking opportunities and reward schemes in male dominated industries naturally become skewed to a male mindset. Consider after work drinks – while most women return to fulfil family responsibilities, their male colleagues are still networking and building relationships, often with management.
When the interests of female employees are recognised and considered at a leadership level, an environment that fosters diversity and inclusion is established and employees are more likely to remain loyal to the organisation.
Expand your skills base- While more millenial women now hold qualifications than men, women also excel at ‘soft skills’- a term which doesn’t do justice to their importance to the leadership team and organisational function. Conflict management, teamwork, building morale, relationship building and communication all fall into the ‘soft skills’ bracket.
To achieve equal gender representation in leadership, the Tasmanian Government is launching a number of initiatives including:
- Implementing the Gender Diversity in the Tasmanian State Service Commitment.
- Implementing the Tasmanian State Service Diversity and Inclusion Policy and Framework 2017-2020.
- Implementing the Women on Boards Strategy 2015-2020
- Promoting the Tasmanian Women’s Register. The Register maintains the profiles of women seeking appointment to Tasmanian Government boards and committees.
- Convening the Tasmanian Women’s Council
Outside of government, they are encouraging companies to:
- Address barriers and training opportunities for women to participate in under-represented occupations
- Support awards that recognise female leaders, particularly in traditionally male dominated industries
- Promote and encourage women into leadership roles in the sport and recreation sector.
On an individual level, women must continue to challenge barriers to progression and seize opportunities to excel in their careers.
Criterion’s Advancing Women’s Leadership in Tasmania Summit, taking place on 21st – 23rd October 2019 in Hobart, brings together aspiring and established female leaders for unparalleled knowledge sharing and networking with foremost leaders across Tasmania.The event will explore the skills and strategies to overcome obstacles and seize opportunities for career progression.