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Dear Colleague - Our experiences in elevating the representation of women in leadership - A letter from business leaders (2011)

Business woman leader photo - cover of Our experiences in elevating the representation of women in leadership publication

experiences in elevating the representation of women in leadership

A letter from business leaders


Women in
leadership—we talk about it, we work to make it happen. But how do we
truly achieve it?

The Male
Champions of Change (MCC) is a collaborative initiative of corporate and
institutional leaders convened by Elizabeth Broderick, Sex Discrimination
Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission. We are committed to discussing
and promoting strategies and actions that elevate women’s representation
in leadership.

Why men?
To make a difference, men and women need to work together on this issue. As CEOs
and board members we believe we have a responsibility to support and drive

In that
spirit, we aim to share with you, a fellow business leader, our experiences of
tackling the practical aspects of elevating the representation of women in
senior roles in our companies. These experiences were gleaned from our own
companies’ efforts to progress this issue. We do not have all the answers.
However, we trust that these experiences will add insight to a debate which
often centres on theory and wishful thinking.

For this
exercise, the Male Champions of Change were joined by three additional
institutions—NAB, Pacific Brands and The Westpac Group. McKinsey &
Company supported the effort pro bono by helping with case studies, and
conducting discussions with each CEO.

What did
we learn? Which cases delivered impact? What patterns might your companies
follow? As Exhibit 1 illustrates, we find there is a common journey that
companies take as they seek to elevate women’s representation. In this
letter, we organise examples from our collective experiences into three phases
that bring that gender diversity journey to life:

1: Getting in the game.
The journey begins
once the CEO gets interested. Early on this interest drives analysis of the
numbers. Barriers and challenges to elevating women’s representation in
leadership are surfaced. The typical focus here is programs and enablers to
support women, and therefore HR is central to the effort. However, despite
energy and investment, the impact on women’s representation in this phase
is low.

2: Getting serious.
The point of difference in moving from Phase 1 to Phase 2 is when a CEO shifts
from being interested to truly committed. As a result, the issue of
women’s representation in leadership is given the same treatment as other
transformational business objectives. This is a shift in how the issue is
approached, and not all our companies have worked through this phase. It leads
to a transition in responsibility from HR to the line, starting with the top
team and then working to embed accountability across the organisation. The same
measurement and management disciplines are put in place as for other business
priorities. In this phase, we often make appointments that break the old

3: Capturing diversity
The shift
from Phase 2 to Phase 3 takes women’s representation as a business issue
to a higher level—by regarding it as a cultural imperative. This describes
the highest aspiration. The prime movers are engaged people from all parts of
the organisation who have signed on to work towards the goal of creating an
inclusive leadership culture. Most of us view ourselves as far from this end

this letter, we highlight actions our companies have taken that illustrate the
journey. It is important to be clear that many of these actions were taken some
years ago—references to our companies in any given section are not
intended to reflect their current progression on gender diversity.

We trust
that these pages will stimulate thought and discussion within your organisation
on the issue of women in leadership.


Smith, CEO, ANZ

Roberts, Chief Country Officer, Citi Australia

Norris, CEO, Commonwealth Bank

Swiegers, CEO, Deloitte Australia

Fitzgerald, Chair, Goldman Sachs Australia Pty Ltd

Joyce, CEO, Qantas

Stevens, Managing Director, IBM Australia and New Zealand

Sedgwick, Public Service Commissioner

Peever, Managing Director, Rio Tinto Australia

Thodey, CEO, Telstra Ltd

Luscombe, Former CEO, Woolworths Ltd

O’Brien, CEO, Woolworths Ltd

McCann AM, Chair and Non-Executive Director

Boreham, Chair and Non-Executive Director

Cairns, Chair and Non-Executive Director

Logos of MCC companies - ANZ, APSC, Citi, CBA, Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, IBM, QANTAS, RioTinto, Telstra, Woolworths


Our Research

Partner logos - Australian Human Rights Commission , NAB, Pacific Brands, The Westpac Group

Human Rights Commission , NAB, Pacific Brands, The Westpac Group

Women leaders in boardroom

1: Elevating women’s representation in leadership–a

Diagram - elevating women's representation in leadership

case for greater gender diversity is obvious for Australian leaders. The
opportunity to leverage untapped talent, and the productivity imperative, means
that gender should be on the national agenda for years to come. There is just no
justification for not...“getting in the game”.’
Smith, ANZ

in Australia are an under utilised resource. We need to be tapping more heavily
into the other half of the resource pool. It’s that
Roberts, Citi

in leadership. It’s just good business. There’s no difference in
leadership potential between women and men; making sure you can capture a better
share of high performing women is better for the organisation.’
Norris, CBA

need to get the best talent for our Firm. Everyone is competing for female
talent and we aim to get more than our fair share. If we attract and retain
great people, we succeed in better serving our clients. Without talent we
can’t serve our clients effectively.’
Swiegers, Deloitte

are Australia’s hidden resource. The gains that we could make as a country
by elevating the representation of women in leadership is substantial. We are a
long way from realising the full potential of our workforce. We need to make
this a priority.’
Fitzgerald, Goldman Sachs

believe that having women in leadership is important for businesses. In the
past, I’ve worked with people who don’t share my conviction. That
doesn’t mean I give up. I just make them accountable and push until they
take action. Once they start, their conviction is bound to
McCann AM, Chair & Non-Executive Director

big ticket, the single biggest issue facing Australia is that we have more
opportunities than people. That’s the business case.’
Boreham, Chair & Non-Executive Director