Diversity needs deliberate action

Gender diversity in the workplace won’t happen on its own, deliberate action needs to be taken. And one thing that can easily happen is for leaders to sponsor a woman, according to a panel at the Dive In Festival in Sydney early this week.

“Things won’t change by itself. This is the 23rd year in a row that Australia has had highest standard of education in the world for women,” said Chris Lamb, global head of organisational development, Lendlease Australia. “You’d think 23 years would be enough time that if it were to flow through to the workforce, it would have happened by now. Clearly it hasn’t.

“Intervention isn’t always popular but it is required.”

Indeed, a key take-home from the session was for leaders to sponsor women. “For men … I would challenge them to sponsor at least one woman. I mean talk about their skills and achievements when they are not in the room. Take a task that you will find a woman in your organisation that you can help to be more confident, more forthright and help them find the next promotion,” said Diana Ryall AM, founder and managing director Xplore for Success.

This was supported by Kelly Lyles, chief regional officer, insurance and deputy chair of the Insurance Leadership Team, XL Catlin who said men should be conscious of trying to find someone they can be believe in and help them up.

Ryall also added: “For women, I would say you’ve got the education, you’ve got the skills and you have to work on having the confidence to ask for the money, the next promotion, to put yourself forward. What is the worst that can happen?”

Samantha Freebairn, squadron leader, Royal Australian Air Force agreed: “For women, I’d say step up.

“For men, please step in. If things are inappropriate in the workplace … please step in and alter that.”

The idea of sponsorship was also supported by Lamb, who also pointed out that leaders should be challenging themselves on whether they are leading in an inclusive way and to educate themselves about unconscious bias.

“If you are leading people, ask yourself what leading in an inclusive way looks like and challenge the things that you do, challenge the times that you have meeting, challenge the people you always give projects to, challenge all those things and really question whether you are leading in an inclusive way.”