Since the ASX released its Corporate Governance Council Principles and Recommendations in June 2010, there has been increasing pressure on listed organisations to promote diversity more strongly in senior management and at the board level.The latest figures from the Australian Institute of Company Directors show that women now make up 13.8% of directors on ASX200 boards. This is up from 11.2% last year. In real terms this is an additional 68 women who have been appointed to ASX200 boards, compared to just 10 in 2009.
Whilst these figures show an increase in representation of women at the senior level, it also demonstrates that we have some way to go.
There has been debate around the introduction of quotas to ensure representation of women at the highest levels in management - most recently in the EU, where the EU’s Justice Commissioner Vivane Reding, is calling for mandatory regulation to increase representation at the executive level. We must continue measuring the representation of women at the senior level as we need to know how we are progressing, but are the introduction of quotas the right way to go?
Striking a balance
I don’t think the introduction of quotas will achieve the most desirable outcome for women or organisations across Australia. If, for the sake of shareholder expectation and regulatory compliance, organisations appoint women to senior leader roles and boards, then I fear women may become victims of gender tokenism which would ultimately devalue and undermine the role women play in the workplace.
The ongoing challenge for companies is to ensure diversity is enhanced and encouraged at the senior level whilst also balancing the needs of the organisation and ensuring that ultimately, the right person is appointed to the right role.
It’s important that we ensure companies appoint women because they are the right people for the job. Appointments at any level within an organisation should be made based on merit and not simply as a result of meeting a gender quota.
Once women reach leadership positions, it is imperative that their contribution is valued. Too often, women are frustrated at senior levels by the double standards present in society. Men and women have a different approach to leadership and it is this difference that brings strength and diversity to the table.
Today’s report card on Prime Minister Gillard by the Australian Graduate School of Management attests to the strength of diversity in the workplace - “If we had well-engaged workforces, men and women, more diverse workforces, we're going to make better decisions, we're going to have better running organisations," said AGSM executive director, Rosemary Howard.
With the ongoing dialogue around work-life balance and many companies now advocating a flexible working environment, the opportunities for women to be the ‘right person for the job’ are definitely increasing. In my own experience with Plaut, choosing the right employer – one that encourages flexibility and diversity – is the first step on an exciting and progressive career pathway – one that ensures women can realise their personal and professional aspirations.
There are a myriad of opportunities available to women across Australia. Today, more than ever, we are able to search and identify development programs to support our career pathways. Recently, I was delighted to be selected to participate in the Women on Boards Next Generation of Female Corporate Leaders high level learning and development program. A group of 28 women, nationally and internationally, were selected to join the program which commences this month. This is an exciting prospect for me as the program is focused on how women can achieve an executive or “C Suite” role, gain a seat at the board table and be successful and impactful once appointed. The program is supported by a raft of experienced directors, current and former executive, professional coaches and expert presenters.
This is an opportunity for me to become closer to the “right person for the right job” at the executive and board level. I’d prefer to be considered for a board level appointment based on the fact that I have the right training and development, my years of exposure and success in the IT industry, my experience in the public and private sector, my ability to deliver business solutions to solve challenges for my clients, my leadership and management style, and not simply because I am a woman.
About the author
Sehida Frawley, National Service Delivery Manager at Plaut IT Australia, has been selected for the Women on Boards Next Generation of Female Corporate Leaders high level learning and development program. The program is focused on how women can achieve an executive or 'C Suite' role, gain a seat at the board table and be successful and impactful once they are appointed. Just 28 women across Australia and internationally were selected to join this program. Frawley will join women from South Australia, Victoria, NSW, ACT, WA, Queensland and Japan when the program commences in March 2012.