Many people would agree there is no simple solution to increasing women’s representation in leadership roles.
There has been so much debate on this topic over time, which too often pitches quotas against meritocracy. But the issue is much more complex. I believe we need to step back and look at the real reasons preventing more women from advancing to senior leadership positions. And we need collective action.
I am a member of the Male Champions of Change, an initiative established by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, together with 20 other leaders from across business and government. Over the last two years we have met regularly to determine what we could do as leaders to accelerate women’s representation at senior levels. These conversations have led to each of us taking tangible action within our organisations. The results of this work were released this week in our 2013 report, ‘Accelerating the advancement of women in leadership: Listening, Learning, Leading.’
Our work is not just about numbers, although this is certainly important. It is really about creating an inclusive culture within our organisations for both women and men to achieve their full potential – without any barriers.
One of the key initiatives we have taken at Telstra is the introduction of ‘All Roles Flex.’ By March 2014, all roles at Telstra will be advertised as flexible. That is, flexibility will be considered the starting point for all roles – both at the recruitment stage and for current employees. We are the first large corporate in Australia to implement such an initiative and it required a leap of faith for some of our leaders.
Flexibility will mean different things to different people. For example, it may mean part-time work, the ability to work certain scheduled shifts, working different hours or at different locations. What I really like about this approach is that it disrupts the status quo and encourages open conversations right from the start. It empowers people to speak up and discuss how they can make their work and career ambitions fit with their life stage and commitments outside of work.
The initiative evolved from a pilot program in our Customer Sales & Service team, which saw the number of women in the applicant pool grow by more than 15 per cent and the share of women in job placements increase by 35 per cent, when roles were advertised as ‘flexible.’
Creating gender equality is a business imperative – diversity of thought, experience and ways of working are important ingredients for competitive advantage. But it can also positively influence how we connect with each other, our customers and the wider community.
I am pleased with the momentum we have built as the MCC group. Our actions are resulting in meaningful progress. But there is still much more work to be done to create a truly even playing field at our organisations. I am committed to this cause, as is my leadership team at Telstra.