Women in Leadership: Lessons from Leading Australian Companies
Noticed a change in management in your career over the past 10 years or so? If you’ve been paying attention, then you might have seen a few more women climbing that career ladder than you’re used to. There’s a reason for that. Australia is on its way to gender equality in leadership – and leading Australian companies are taking the bull by the horns to make it happen.
According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, in 2017-2018, women made up 39.1% of all manager, with steady increases over the years from 2013 across all management positions.
We asked some fearless females at Australia’s leading companies why it’s a great time for women to think about getting into a leadership position.
Flight Centre Travel Group
When it comes to travel agencies, Flight Centre is one of the world’s most instantly recognisable names. Operating in no less than 23 different countries with a team of over 22,000 people, when taking on a role with Flight Centre, the sky is truly the limit.
Shayna King would know. With 9 years under her belt at Flight Centre, she has worked as a Development Coach, Senior Consultant, and now helps place others in excellent positions as a Talent Acquisition Specialist.
We asked Shayna about the overall culture towards women and other minority employees at Flight Centre:
“As a woman and a “minority” employee myself, my favourite part of working at Flight Centre is that I have always been accepted as I am. One of the company’s core philosophies is Egalitarianism, and I have always been taken at face value for the work I do, not for being a minority. Each employee is valued as an individual, we all have equal rights and privileges.”
And what about women in leadership positions?
“Flight Centre’s workforce is 75% female, with a female focused initiative called “Womenwise”, which was established in 2015 by senior female leaders in the business to give structured support to create gender balance across all leadership teams in the group.”
Digital transformation specialists, Objective, based out of Sydney, are a progressive tech company involved in the public sector, local government, healthcare, financial services and insurance and energy and infrastructure industries.
We polled Linda Huynh, Software Developer at Objective, for her musings on women in leadership in the industry.
She explains why she believes women need encouraging into leadership roles in the workplace: “Women are often socially trained to not think of themselves as leaders. (Also) the need to care for young children or aging parents can pose as impediments for women in their career progression in general, and leadership positions in particular. Therefore, women will need a trusted networking support for professional development, flexibility, high levels of collaboration and constructive feedback from the leadership team.”
To put this into action, Hunyh gives the following suggestions:
- Promote talented women to leadership positions from within the company.
- Create a coaching and mentoring program where mentor/mentee can meet regularly to learn and share experiences.
- Expose female leaders to the strategic work at the company to build confidence, create visibility of talent and provide access to stretch assignments.
- Reward successful achievements of goals to boost morale.
- Invest in diversity training to raise awareness of gender equality and communicate the need for a level playing field for every employee.
You can read Linda’s latest blog post, Why your diverse hiring initiative isn’t working, for more of her thoughts on the matter.
Leaders in the booming worldwide CRM market, Salesforce has a significant contingent in Australia, too. Sau-Yeng Dixon is here to spearhead equality in the workforce, through her roles as both Director, Business Architect in Innovation and Transformation Advisory as well as the Equality Council Lead for Salesforce APAC.
She makes note that great leaders are simply great, regardless of gender, and all share the same qualities: “The leaders I look up to are open and collaborative, as well as focused and decisive, and I have found these characteristics in both female and male leaders I have worked with.”
There’s also good reason to be excited about Salesforce’s human resource policies when it comes to equality.
“Here at Salesforce, we are very deliberate about removing gender bias from our recruitment at all levels of seniority, and developing strategies that both retain and build the leadership skills of women. We are also committed to pay equality, and Salesforce has spent more than USD $10.3 million to ensure pay parity. One of our four values at Salesforce is Equality, and we don’t just talk about it, we live it. Equality allows everyone to feel valuable and valued, and that’s the recipe for creating a fearless organisation.”
There are also plenty of opportunities within the company for leadership skills training, and even externally.
“Salesforce offers many excellent leadership development training opportunities to everyone in the company and this is a testimony to how much we are valued,” says Dixon. “Our open, free training platform Trailhead offers modules that anyone within Salesforce or externally can complete. This includes modules on management, professional development planning and public speaking.”
Morten Henriksen, Agile Business Analyst at Cognizant is a champion for inclusion and diversity, reminding us that support comes from all angles – and needs to be explicitly outlined within a company.
“Diversity doesn’t come by itself, so senior management, middle management, and everyone else in the company needs to be aware of that strategy and all initiatives.”
At Cognizant, they’re dedicated to gender equality initiatives in the workplace.
“Cognizant has a strong focus on gender equality and strive to create an equal workplace for everyone,” says Henriksen. “We support both internal initiatives such as WINKS – Women In the Know, an internal networking group for female associates – and external organisations such as Code Like A Girl and VICICT4Women. Also, we have a strong focus on flexible work in order to support different life situations and arrangements.”
Even more interesting, explains Henriksen, is how Cognizant is refactoring the hiring process to remove unconscious gender bias.
“Our talent acquisition practice is working with our hiring managers in relation to unconscious bias in the interview process which can influence who we hire to ensure that all our potential candidates are treated equally.”
Global consultancy firm EY is top of many people’s employer wish lists for good reason. The company is known for its evidence-based results, hard work, and prestige.
Sabrina D’Cruz has been with EY since 2012, working her way up the career ladder to a Senior Manager, Advisory position.
If you’re a woman in tech, then you’ll be happy with with what D’Cruz has to say about EY.
“EY has a distinct focus on developing and supporting women in consulting and within the technology industry in particular. We look to raise awareness of the opportunities young women have in the technology space from high school onwards, running specific female-focused university campus events to promote opportunities for young women in consulting.”
“We place a specific focus on gender equity in our recruitment processes, hiring against a target of 50% females at graduate and senior manager ranks, which we have been successful in achieving over the last few years within our Advisory practice. This year our Executive Leadership Team have achieved a 50/50 gender balance”
D’Cruz goes on to mention future mandates within the company, with “firm-wide metrics of 30% females in senior positions by 2024 and 50% representation in junior ranks, as well as the rise of career-enhancing support structures.”
To achieve this, EY has a range of initiatives in place including seminars, mentoring, an internal program for women new to EY, a return to work program, ‘Flex-tober’, and a family-friendly work environment. After all, mandates need to be backed by actions that work!
Ready for your next read (or role)?
Read our feature pieces, How Top Organisations Support Women on the Rise and Bulletproof Arguments For Diversity in the Workplace or check out job opportunities at some of Australia’s leading diversity-first employers:
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