Organisational gender diversity, particular at the executive level of business, has been a topic of discussion globally for a long time. While there has been some movement in diversifying business in recent years, we are still seeing large disparities in representation.
So, why has it been so difficult to get more females into management and executive roles in businesses?
In our latest Disruption Circle event, we discussed the issues of leadership and diversity with guest speaker Michelle Guthrie. A lawyer and business executive who has held positions at News International, Foxtel, Google and the ABC, Michelle shared her experiences and suggestions for industry-wide improvements.
The outcome was that there are tangible advantages of leadership diversity, and that there is a unique opportunity for businesses and individuals right now to achieve true diversity and organisational change.
Diversity isn’t instant, it needs to be built
The responsibilities for diversity lie at both an organisational and personal level. And therefore, so do the issues that have prevented true diversity from flourishing in a wide majority of business.
From an organisational perspective, we can see that diversity isn’t being truly developed into organisational structure and priorities. It is being viewed as something ‘we have to do’, rather than something ‘we need to do’. This perspective is preventing true change from occurring.
Dropping women (or often, just one woman) into leadership positions to show representation is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. This approach fails to properly work gender diversity into the fabric of the company at multiple levels.
Hiring is a major hurdle to diversity. Looking for experience instead of ability prevents increased possibilities to diversify workforces. Searching for the same talents and hiring from the same pool as competing businesses perpetuates the issue on an industry-wide level.
There is also responsibility on a personal level. Often, women can be their own barrier into leadership opportunities. Failing to see themselves as an asset to the organisation, or seeing their experience and ability as valid, limits their ability to make use of the opportunities (even if few) that are available to them.
Diversity is an asset – here’s the proof
Right now, we are all facing a new normal in terms