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Chief Executive Women makes informed contributions to the national debate on gender balance. One of CEW’s most important achievements has been to cut through the myths surrounding women in leadership with hard data.
Women in line roles in corporate Australia are progressing more slowly than men towards leadership. The Bain-CEW report, based on a survey of nearly 4,500 respondents from the Australian business, government and not-for-profit communities, found that almost 60 per cent of men were promoted twice or more in the past five years compared with only 41 per cent of women. This gap in promotion rates only increases with seniority.
Narrowing the gap in promotion rates demands that our Australian organisations be meritocratic, yet the survey data from the Advancing Women in Australia: Eliminating bias in feedback and promotions report highlights that there is significant room for improvement. Less than half of the female respondents (45%) felt that their organisation is meritocratic, with men slightly more positive at 61%
This research was conducted as part of the 2016 Barbara Cail STEM Fellowship and funded by the Australian Government (Office for Women, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet), in partnership with Chief Executive Women (CEW).
Chief Executive Women and the Male Champions of Change have collaborated to produce In the Eye of the Beholder: Avoiding the Merit Trap.
This report blows the cover on the common biases that impact decision making and calls on every leader to reflect on their decision making and avoid falling for the merit trap.
Over 1000 members of the Australian business, government and not-for-profit community responded to the survey about their use of flexible work arrangements and their perceptions of their organisations.
In order to advance gender equality in the workplace, flexible work arrangements must be available to and actively supported for both genders. Currently less than 50% of Australian organisations have a workplace flexibility policy and even when such policies exist, there are barriers to effective utilisation.
The right culture and active support are fundamental to improving employees’ experience of flexible working. Male and female respondents to the latest Bain-Chief Executive Women Survey agreed that proof of the potential to progress one’s career, visible commitment by the CEO, leadership and colleagues, and respect for boundaries are the most important factors in their experience of flexible working. Where flexible arrangements are widely used, all employees are four times happier than in organisations with no flexible options. However flexible work arrangements are not driving advocacy or confidence for men, despite strong interest in their uptake.
Bain and CEW have identified several key actions to normalise and accelerate the success of flexible working. Organisations must:
• Actively encourage and role model the uptake of flexible work arrangements
• Ensure flexible arrangements are supported and working successfully for both genders
• Create the right culture and support employee priorities of career progression, visible support from the CEO, leadership team and colleagues, and respect of boundaries
• Create clear policies around promotion and compensation when working flexibly
• Ensure technology and an agile work environment are in place and working well
It’s a powerful force: One Gallup analysis of 50,000 companies showed that high-engagement organisations have more than 20% higher profitability and productivity levels than their low-engagement counterparts.
Bain Partner Melanie Sanders and CEW members Kathryn Fagg and Meredith Hellicar sought to understand specifically what CEOs and other leaders can do to create positive and engaging environments for both genders.
Based on survey responses from nearly 1,500 senior executives, the report found that there are critical leadership behaviours that can make major differences in employee perceptions of the organisation in general and as a place for women to progress. Importantly, these leadership behaviours affect engagement levels for both women and men, spurring higher performance (and productivity) across the board.
- Would you recommend your organisation as a place to work? Why / why not
- Would you recommend your organisation as a place where women can progress to senior leadership? Why / why not
- Would you recommend your manager as someone to work for? Why / why not
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Senior leaders do not value the different perspectives that women bring to a team
They appoint executives with styles more like themselves
Men are viewed as better “promoters,” women as better “collaborators” – and whose style is more effective is crucial to the debate
Women and men are viewed as equally effective at making commercially-sound decisions, managing high-pressure situations and delivering transformative change
Some 60% of all respondents to this 2011 study felt that gender-specific approaches to management situations and issues are a bigger obstacle to women’s career advancement. This group includes a majority of women, at 78%. Only 39% of men surveyed agree with this. A majority of men, 61%, believe that competing work-family commitments is the main inhibitor to senior leadership roles for women.
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- Not enough visible, committed leadership
- Unintended cultural barriers
- Under investment in sustained change management