In November last year the Business Council of Australia and the Male Champions of Change both released significant reports calling on business to do more about maximising the potential of their female and male talent.  The press covered both announcements at length.  Over the weekend, International Women’s Day was heralded by the sound of women executives, politicians and community leaders across Australia demanding better gender equality in management and leadership.

So are we finally at a tipping point to address the persistent dearth of women in leadership positions across Australia?

I think these laudable and important initiatives combined with the new reporting requirements that come into full effect this year under the Workplace Gender Equality Act represent the burning platform this issue needs to finally secure the leadership commitment needed to drive lasting change.

Why? Business’s attempts to improve gender equality will now be informed by standardised gender composition data across five defined management categories that will also promote transparency and allow employers to compare their performance with their peers.  If we believe women and men are equally capable, that means everyone will be able to assess how well a business is leveraging its female talent. 

Standardised performance metrics are also the foundation of targets and management accountability measures – both of which are critical for removing the structural and cultural barriers that inhibit the ability of women to progress into leadership positions.

The next critical step is ensuring business invests in building the skills and capabilities needed to develop the full potential of their talent. We know a mark of a good people manager is an ability to nurture the unique capabilities and development aspirations of their team members.  That means actively pursuing growth opportunities for talent, providing flexible working environments so everyone can manage their work demands and life ambitions, seeking and valuing different perspectives, and clearly articulating, measuring and rewarding outcomes, not inputs.  Master these management skills and you will drive the engagement of your people and the productivity of your workforce. 

Interestingly, these attributes are also among the enablers of workplace gender equality.  That’s why I believe gender diversity is another hallmark of management capability that all good managers should be focused on achieving.  It’s also among the reasons why clients should demand diversity from their suppliers and why investors should expect it from the companies in which they invest. 

It also explains why the Workplace Gender Equality Agency is focused on delivering employers practical tools and resources informed by best practice knowhow, so that organisations can develop the requisite capabilities to develop women across their workforce.

It’s time we all recognised gender equality is about management best practice.  Like any business imperative whether it be gaining and maintaining market share, improving customer satisfaction or reducing your cost base, it requires constant attention and an unwavering commitment.

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Yolanda Beattie is the Public Affairs Executive Manager at the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

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