What is the key to executive gender equality? Hint: It’s not board quotas

Board quotas may be geared towards creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce, but they do they necessarily lead to a boost in female leaders?

What is the key to executive gender equality? Hint: It’s not board quotas
As Australia’s most successful HR leaders know, a diverse and inclusive executive team can deliver great benefits.
But true diversity is less about filling board quotas and getting women promoted to the executive level, and more about creating a culture where women feel valued, supported and encouraged to apply for leadership roles, says Helen O’Loughlin, the senior executive leader, people & development at ASIC.
“The traditional way we look at diversity, which is often about gender and age and cultural diversity, hasn’t been refreshed for a long time,” she said.
“I find it really interesting that people are getting bored with gender diversity, given that we’ve made such limited progress. It’s astonishing, as I think the real issues are just starting to be unpacked.”
Part of the problem is the fact that for many women, the ability to self-promote and put themselves forward for key leadership roles doesn’t always come naturally.
“When we look closely at our applicant lists, we’ve realised that we’re really struggling to get women to actually apply for the jobs. There’s that old rule that women will only apply if they feel they are 99.5% qualified whereas men will apply at 70% – that’s really playing out from what I’ve seen in our recruitment,” said O’Loughlin.
So what’s the solution? According to O’Loughlin, fostering diversity in the workplace involves a consistent commitment to behavioural change and shifting habits. This means creating an inclusive environment that values each individual and embraces their strengths, while providing opportunities for all staff to achieve their full potential.
“You can’t really change people’s beliefs, or it’s very hard to do, but you can change behaviour. When people demonstrate that behaviour over and over again, it will hopefully also shift some beliefs,” she said.
Helen O'Loughlin, Senior Executive Leader, people & development, ASIC, will discuss ‘Diversity & Cultural Change’ at our 2014 HR Summit, held in Sydney on April 1-2. For more information, click here.

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