The statistics tell it all. Worldwide, and historically, women have repeatedly not been represented at the ‘leadership table’ sufficiently, if at all, not only leaving a slanted male gender bias in the areas of politics, business and law, for example, but in other significant areas of modern day business.
The disparity brings a range of complications in all aspects of government, business and society at large.
However, the many advantages that women bring to modern day business, particularly in enhancing the ‘competitive edge,’ should never be under-estimated. Consider these staggering outcomes of a recent worldwide research conducted on the impact of women in leadership roles.
According to Forbes Magazine:
The outcome of one of the most comprehensive worldwide survey’s ever conducted (done by Pittsburgh-based human resources consulting firm DDI together with nonprofit business research group The Conference Board) indicate that companies that perform best financially have the greatest number of women in leadership roles. In the top 20% of highly performing companies financially, 27% of leaders are women. Among the bottom 20% of financial performers, only 19% of leaders are women.
Women leaders in Australia
Statistics indicate that women are under-represented in leadership positions in all sectors of the paid workforce, with an example being that women held 35.3 percent of Government board Appointments, as at June 30 2011. In legal fields, for example, the percentage is even less, and whilst 61.4% of all law graduates are females, women hold only about 22% of the most senior positions in law firms. In the Federal Court of Australia, women make up on 16% of the bench.
The statistics in corporate Australia are more concerning, indicating that only 8.4% of Board Directorships are held by women. Of greater concern is that the number of women directors has increased only .2% since 2002. (Source: The EOWA 2010 Australian Census of Women in Leadership.)
The international context
Historically the incidence of women prime ministers has not been impressive either, with less than 2% of women leading countries.
Internationally, there have been significant developments in the area of women on boards, with promising reforms being implemented to strengthen the representation of women at decision making levels. In countries such as Norway and Spain governments have introduced mandatory quotas that require a specific percentage of women to sit on boards and in other leadership roles.
It’s not about Tokenism in Business
Appointing women to leadership positions in business is not about ‘getting the gender balance right’ for the sake of it. There has to be a genuine and transparent movement towards creating leadership gender equality within Organisations because of the skills, competencies and leadership capacities that both males and females bring to the Organisation.
Furthermore, there has to be a deep appreciation of the contribution both women and men make to the overall success of an Organisation and continued and relentless efforts made to accommodate parenting and raising children as part of the portfolio of both sexes. Having a child does not necessary mean a woman should give up her career. Rather, strategies and approaches need to be rigorously pursued to enhance her career, not end it.
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