What does the 2022 Federal Election say about the future of female leadership in Australia?

Deborah Wilson

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19 | OnTalent

As the dust continues to settle on the 2022 Federal Election, a clear observation is that more women will have a presence in Australia’s Parliament. As anticipated, the so-called female teal candidates performed well, as did women from other parts of the political spectrum.

The issues typically linked to the female vote leading into the election—sexual harassment, economic security, violence against women and children—transcend politics. As the Head of Careers, Leadership Development and Consulting Services at OnTalent, I’ve found myself pondering what the election result means, if anything, on a larger scale. I’m especially interested in what the outcome may point to for the future of female leadership.

Women in leadership statistics in Australia make for grim reading. According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), females are underrepresented in key decision-making roles across almost all industries in the Australian workforce. Data from 2020-21 shows that women comprise:

· 19.4% of Chief Executive Officers
· 32.5% of key management positions
· 33% of board members
· 18% of board chairs

My sense on the ground and in my work is that things are changing—even if the pace of change is too slow for some. There is certainly a business case for the importance of female representation in senior leadership roles for industries and businesses that remain reluctant to change. Research conducted by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre in partnership with the WGEA over five years identified that increasing the representation of women across each of the key leadership roles in an organization added market value of between $52 million and $70 million per year for an average sized organisation. This was evident in the statistically significant findings.

If you ask me if you’re not appealing to female workers in 2022 for whatever reason, that’s a problem on several levels. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, women made up almost half the paid workforce in Australia in 2020, compared to around 30% in 1966. Times are changing, as are societal expectations. If your organisation is struggling to attract female talent, a good starting point is to review job descriptions, interview processes and your public presence. Also, be aware of implicit bias.

Several businesses I’ve spoken with in 2022 have flagged the consequences of The Great Resignation and lack of workforce. We’re living in a time when if people aren’t happy in their roles, they’ve got a reasonably good chance of finding another position that meets their expectations. Here are some of the more common ‘deal breakers’ for female leaders that I’ve heard consistently in recent times.

Equal pay

While it’s never simply “all about the money,” most women expect to receive equal pay for work of equal or comparable value. You’d be surprised at how often this is simply not happening in 2022! With inflation and the cost of living both tipped to continue increasing, I see equal pay continuing to be a significant factor for everyone and, of course, women.

Parental leave

Obviously, a paragraph will not do this issue justice. According to the WGEA, women account for 88% of all primary carer’s leave utilised, and men account for 12%. Biology means women must carry and give birth; however, choice where possible is vital. Extending paid parental leave to each parent has a flow-on effect regarding a more equal division of unpaid care and paid work, improving the family work-life balance. Is it time to review your organisation’s parental leave policies?

A culture of equity and inclusion

The pandemic has changed the world forever. While everyone was impacted differently due to several factors, most were forced to live differently for at least a short time. This was almost like a reset for many people. I’ve seen a noticeable shift in people wanting more purpose in their work life. When I speak with women about potential careers and jobs, these are the questions I hear more and more:

· Does the company have women in leadership positions?
· Are females represented on the board?
· Does the organisation have policies that support gender diversity, diversity on a broader scale and inclusion?

I’m excited about the change I’m seeing with more women in leadership across all sectors.

Deborah Wilson is a Thought Leader and a Career Strategist. She takes a personalised approach to strategic career coaching, career transitions, mentoring, and leadership development. Deborah provides expert guidance for individuals while supporting organisations through change and connecting people and purpose.

Call Deborah on +61 403 779 746. www.ontalent.com.au

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