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Upswing in men ‘speaking up’ for gender equality in Australia

From left to right: David  Morrison AO, Amanda Webb from Xplore for Success, Lisa Annese from DCA, and Diana Ryall AM.

Last Friday, 30 June, I was honoured to share the stage with 2016 Australian of the Year Lieutenant General (retired) David Morrison AO in a conversation on inclusive leadership, at a special event in Melbourne co-hosted by the Diversity Council Australia and Xplore for Success. David’s work in the Australian Army is a shining example of the kind of ‘values-driven’ leadership we need within organisations: people with their values in place, and the strength to hold to those values when challenged in the workplace and beyond.

In reflecting on the first half of 2016, I have been encouraged by the increased focus by men on achieving gender equality in both teams and within organisations. This is demonstrated by the growing number of ‘Champions of Change’ stemming from the national group formed by Liz Broderick, to state, industry and organisational groups. The increase in the number of men who are prepared to sign up and speak up about inequality will be of great benefit to all.

The Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) publishes a quarterly progress report on gender diversity, which includes data on women attaining board positions. In the report published at the end of May, 20 of the ASX 200 still have no women on their boards, and 54 of the ASX 200 have over 30% women on their boards. AICD is driving for 30% board members being women in the ASX 200 by 2018. A year ago this goal would have seemed totally unattainable, but the juggernaut is slowly moving with more women being offered board positions.

The importance of pay equity has been a focus for WGEA, as demonstrated by the growing list of Pay Equity Ambassadors, currently totalling 98. I note that a number of prominent ASX 200 organisations are missing from the list, and hope that pressure from peers and employees will see them sign up soon. WGEA has also raised the understanding of workplace flexibility through its ‘Equilibrium Man Challenge‘. The men taking part in the project provide important insights on the issues and challenges faced by men seeking to work in more flexible ways.

Dr Michael Kimmel returned to Australia last month to engage more deeply with the business community, and to speak at TEDxSydney. I was fortunate to be in the audience at several events where Michael spoke. Michael’s TEDxSydney talk on ‘Tackling the Boy Crisis’ is now online, and if you haven’t already seen his 2015 TEDWomen talk on ‘Why gender equality is good for everyone – men included’, I encourage you to do so.

We are delighted by the number of organisations approaching us to help their leaders move beyond issues such as unconscious bias, towards developing strategies to foster an inclusive and gender equal workplace. Many are seeking services for their leaders to ensure women are promoted and retained in their organisation, helping them to move beyond a ‘male merit’ approach for promotion.

What we are starting to see through the initiatives highlighted above, and in our own work with leaders, is a welcome shift in the conversation towards inclusion, where each employee is valued for their uniqueness and feels that they belong.

Diana Ryall

Diana is a leading voice and advocate for Gender Equality in Australia and Founder of Xplore.
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