Sunday 8 March marked International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. Make It Happen is the 2015 theme, encouraging effective action for advancing and recognising women.
Over the course of my life I feel I have witnessed enormous progress in the quest for equality for women.
One indicator of this is workforce participation levels. According to the Australian Government’s 2015 Intergenerational Report:
- In 1975, only 46 per cent of women aged 15 to 64 worked;
- Today, 66 per cent of women aged 15 to 64 are employed;
- By 2054-55, this is projected to increase to 70 per cent.
|Phil Taylor, Head of People & Performance|
However, I am both a product & beneficiary of very traditional gender role choices. Both my mother and my wife exited the workforce and took on traditional roles of full time mother at home. While both would say that they willingly made the choice, there is no doubt that those choices brought unquantifiable sacrifices.
It is perhaps only since the birth of my first two children – both girls – that the prospects and challenges faced by women have become more deeply personal to me. As JFK said in a famous speech, among our most basic common links is that “we all cherish our children’s future”. Like all parents, thinking about, planning and equipping them for their future is something I see as a core mission in my life.
So what do today’s statistics tell us today about the challenges still faced by women?
- In 2014, women held only 10 per cent of executive positions and made up only 3 per cent of CEOs.
- On average, women are paid 17% less than men.
- 44% of women report their partner’s income will be their main source of support for meeting living costs in retirement.
- Women typically retire with 40% less in their superannuation than men, and can expect to live at least 3 years longer.
- 42% of women are reliant on the age pension when they retire, as opposed to 25% of men.
These statistics are not just numbers. They represent our grandmothers, mothers, aunts, wives, partners, daughters and nieces. They deserve better.
From a financial perspective, there is a large body of evidence that companies with higher percentages of women in their leadership perform better on a wide range of business metrics — return on equity, return on sales and return on invested capital. In a September 2014 article in McKinsey Quarterly Can women fix capitalism? author Joanna Barsh found: ‘Women bring improved decision making at the top, more creativity and innovation, and better problem solving, stemming from greater cognitive diversity. Women also improve the ecosystem, because company leaders better match the profile of customers and employees. And when three or more women make it to the top team, a company’s organisational health appears to improve on every one of the nine dimensions McKinsey tracks’. So this is not just a matter of doing the right thing, there are tangible improvements in business performance at stake.
At GPT, we have made important progress in recent times:
- The composition of GPT’s workforce at 31 December 2014 was 52% female, up from 51% female at the end of 2013.
- Female representation amongst the senior management cohort was at 34%, an increase of 7% over the year, towards our target of 40% by the end of 2015.
- We have at least 50% female representation in our key talent development programs.
- We’re working with our people managers to present shortlists for vacant roles that have both male and female candidates.
- We’ve formed a Diversity Working Group chaired by CEO Michael Cameron and comprising several women in senior positions which has been working to provide support, encouragement and networking opportunities for female employees.
- We’ve joined the Chief Executive Women organisation, and also participate in the PCA Women in Property mentoring program.
As International Women’s Day reminds us, there is still more to do to realise our goals for women’s equality, and our mission won’t stop when we achieve the goal of 40% female representation in senior management.
I am excited to be involved in GPT’s charge to achieve greater equality for women, and I look forward to seeing further improvements in this area.