By Mary Sue Rogers, WOB Non Executive Director
While the agendas were different and the audience varied the themes were the same. How far women have come and how far there still is to go concerning “making it to the C-Suite” and being treated equally to men. First Senator Wong’s top advice: -
Value differences – decision making does not improve if everyone in the room is the same and parts of the population are excluded, from women to those with disabilities to different cultures and backgrounds.
Support and champion other women – women need to support each other and proactively use our experiences to help other women succeed and achieve.
Value your skills, expertise and experience – women do not put themselves forward or raise their hand to say “I can do that” we need to recognise the skills and expertise we have and take a risk to take on new challenges and responsibilities.
Institutional and structural barriers – the behaviour and attitude of men (and women) concerning women still is an issue. If a woman shows emotion, she lacks mental toughness. You only have to read the media regarding the latest challenges with the AMP chairperson who happened to be female. The comparisons and articles in the press regarding her makeup, clothes, shoes and children would never happen if the chairperson had been male. Structural barriers remain concerning child care and taking time out of the workplace.
Fairness – treating everyone equally and fairly from pay to equal benefits.
Stay the course – we have to keep pushing the issue and making the changes as history has shown the equality does not come easily.
The challenge for women to get to the C-Suite (or the head of a hospital surgery or a senior member of the government, or a non-executive on a board) is still real. In Australia, one person in five believes that children suffer if their mother goes to work, that is 20% of the population. There are 176 women on the ASX200 boards, less now that all three women on the AMP board have resigned. There are ASX200 boards that have zero women.
The event also included a panel discussion on the topic of “who did your job 50 years ago?” Participating in the panel were Nicole (referenced above) Hon Susan Ryan AO; AICD Chairman Elizabeth Proust AO; and Lee de Winton, CEO Sydney Metro Airports and former RAAF Commanding Officer. Each member of the panel answered the same; a man was doing their job 50 years ago. And what was more striking was the treatment of professional women less than 30 years ago. If you were in government (in the case of Susan) or the military (as Lee was) the rules were if you got married or got pregnant you quit. Amazing stories both of then and now regarding the treatment of women. For me, the more revealing on the lack of change was Nicole’s story regarding how hard it was for a woman to become a surgeon. In 2015 less than 10% of surgical fellows were women.
Hillary Clinton gave similar messages when she presented at the International Convention Centre in Sydney on 11th May 2018, followed by an interview with Julia Gillard the 27th Prime Minister of Australia. Ms Clinton’s comments echoed Senator Wong’s:
- Everyone gets knocked down in life – you have to get up and move onward
- The only way to get sexism out of politics is to get more women into politics
- The more professionally successful women are, the less they are liked
- There is no such thing as an “alternative fact”.
The stories she told about her life from Yale Law School, to First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State and being the first women to be nominated by a major party in America to run for President of the United States were amazing. The stories show a journey of challenges, firsts, successes and misses. She spoke without a single “um” for over 30 minutes on her life as a law student, a lawyer fighting for children's rights, first women partner in her law firm, moving to Arkansas to marry Bill Clinton and the rest is history. Many firsts but never any regrets.
There were three quotes from the events that I loved: -
“Always aim high, work hard, and care deeply about what you believe in. And, when you stumble, keep faith. And, when you’re knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t go on.” – Hillary Clinton
“Homogeneous teams don’t make better decisions – they just think they do”. – Senator Penny Wong
“I should have watched the Apprentice” – Hillary Clinton