Call to "name and shame" employers who favour men in senior roles
"Naming and shaming" would be more effective than quotas in redressing the gender imbalance against women in senior leadership roles, according to former Apple managing director, Di Ryall.
Panel divided on quotasBronwyn Bishop MP is "dead against" using quotas to boost the number of women promoted to senior roles, she says, because they turn women into "permanent second-class citizens". Quotas give rise to people "whispering behind your back" and thinking that the promotion was based on gender, not merit. "You don't earn respect by coming in on a quota," she says.
She says the "plateauing effect" that women experience in their careers (most noticeably after they have taken a break from the workforce to have children), could be better addressed if the government abolished the fringe-benefit tax on childcare or allowed women to salary sacrifice their childcare expenses.
Sky newsreader Tracey Spicer, on the other hand, supports the introduction of quotas but concedes "we're not going to get quotas in this country overnight".
"There's a lot of public discussion against it, but let's just start talking about it."
She points out that Norway has introduced quotas so that 40 per cent of its board members are women. "It's an experiment there, let's see how it works in the next couple of years, but heck, it's got to be better than it is now."
Fellow panellist Karen Adamedes of TrueLocal says she is "in favour of targets, but not necessarily quotas, because what gets measured gets done".
Her concern with quotas, from a business perspective, is, "is it always the best person getting the job?" However, if employers are forced to set targets and then measure and record their progress, "they will have to think about the issue and do something about it" she says.
Executive coach Anthony Howard, who was also on the CareerOne panel, agrees. "I'm not a fan of quotas, I'm not a fan of policy to regulate these sorts of things but I'm certainly a fan of targets."
Howard says the proportion of women in senior leadership roles in Australia is "shameful" and "beyond embarrassment".
When Howard's sister was promoted into a role 15 years ago because her employer was trying to get more women into senior roles, he was initially offended on the basis that better-qualified men might have been overlooked. However, "I've since changed my view," he says.
The company recognised his sister was not fully ready for the role and gave her additional training and support to help her succeed. "She went on to greater roles within the organisation, so I think that was a very good move," he says.
Howard says every selection panel should have women on it, every position should have at least one female candidate among the final three, and payroll tax should be abolished on female promotions. Organisations "will need to take a risk" in order to achieve targets, but Howard believes it will pay off. "We should do everything possible to help women move up into roles, and organisations should put people into roles that stretch them, and then train and develop them.
"Without a doubt, as the number of women increase in these roles, that will create a much better society - a richer outcome and better business outcomes," he says.
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