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The Big Story: the diversity dilemma

Gender imbalances are still plaguing Australian businesses. New research shows that when seeking new managers less than half of all employers take into consideration the number of men and women already in senior management.

In this HC Big Story, Abby O’Neill of Melbourne Business School confirms that women are often not given the opportunity to develop their skills and are often marginalized, despite their obvious skills and qualifications. David Bowsher, head of HR for BBC Australia, suggests there are deep-rooted historical and cultural biases that business leaders need to move beyond. Naomi Simson, founder of RedBalloon, is saddened that this is still the case in 2012, but is heartened that the gender equality debate is still on the agenda.

Finally, Rowan Arndt, head of diversity & inclusion at NAB Group, provides his tips for creating positive change through diversity initiatives.

Video transcript below:

Donna Sawyer, HC Online
Donna Sawyer:  Hello, I am Donna Sawyer and you are watching the Big Story on HC Online. Australian businesses are failing to address gender imbalances in their work forces.  New research shows when seeking new managers less than half of employers take into account the number of men or women already in upper management.  Naomi Simson from Red Balloon says it’s unfortunate these issues still need to be dealt with in the modern age.

Naomi Simson, Red Balloon
Naomi Simson:  I am so saddened by the press that I read about women in leadership roles, you know not equal pay and all of these things.
Abby O’neal, Melbourne Business School
Abby O’neal:  Often women don’t get the opportunity to have that development.  So women are still a little bit marginalised in some respects in a lot of organisations.
David Bowsher, BBC Australia
David Bowsher:  I think some of it is just around you know historical practice you know that the industries that are here in Australia compared to other areas in the world.  So yeah they have been particularly male dominated, for example.
Abby O’neal:  Even when women do good work, studies show that they don’t get the recognition, they don’t get the opportunities, they don’t, that they get overlooked often.
Donna Sawyer:  However, Abby O’neal from the Melbourne Business School says it’s not just a discriminatory issue but also a confidence one.  She says men are often more vocal about their career aspirations and women need to speak up more often.
Abby O’neal:  They don’t have the confidence, they don’t feel that they are good enough.  They often have to prove themselves more than men do to get the same opportunities.
Donna Sawyer:  David Bowsher from BBC, Australia says the issue of women in higher positions stems from a wider problem in Australian business, that of diversity.
David Bowsher:  It seems here that diversity and diversity agenda is probably more in its infancy compared to the UK.  I think the UK is probably kind of bit further ahead on that in terms of you know work policies, [but is the kind of] representing various groups of people within the company or within that wider work force.
Rowan Arndt, NAB
Rowan Arndt:  What I would recommend to a lot of employers out there is - address the way you think first of all, understand those biases within the organisation, that you may already place on the way you advertise, the way you place those advertisements looking to attract new recruits to the organisation, the type of roles that you have, flexibility and then realise there is other options in actually in the interview process you can actually adopt.
Donna Sawyer:  Rowan Arndt from NAB says by accepting the issues his organisation can take actions for change.
Rowan Arndt:  So in NAB we have mixed panel interviews, so we have mixed gender and age, people actually interviewing people there, so we actually are able to overcome some of the biases.  Additionally when we are looking at shortlistings we are looking for the first list of people in that short listing process to make sure that we have the best representation or the best candidates for those types of roles.
Naomi Simson:  You know the great thing that I have seen is a) we are keeping the conversation going and b) the conversation used to come only annually which was on International Womens Day.  We have managed to keep the conversation going all year.  And with enough agitation things will happen.
Abby O’neal:  It’s a very slow moving process for women to really have kind of equal status and be chosen for the good work they do and to be recognised for that good work.
Donna Sawyer:  For more on diversity in the workplace and other HR issues click around HC Online.  I am Donna Sawyer and I will see you again soon with the big story.