Is Australia wasting its female talent?

Shutterstock 669807235 Sml

It is not news that women are currently underrepresented in leadership roles in Australia. According to the 2012 Australian census on women in leadership, since 2010 the number of female directors on company boards has been on the rise but still less than 1 in 10 directors are women. Of the 500 companies surveyed, only 12 have a female CEO. 9.2% of directors are women in Australia, compared to Canada with 10.3% and USA with 16.1%.


Gender equality is good for business because it delivers better organisational performance for companies, greater access to talent, increases competitive advantage; and builds national productivity. Having women in leadership roles allows them to not only to feel connected, supported and empowered; but also, challenged and encouraged to achieve their career and life aspirations. It’s time we got smarter and put gender equality on the agenda. A healthier Australia looks like us integrating female empowerment and having women at the forefront. It’s not so much “about” women, as it is about this universal need for both men and women to ensure their skills and talents get recognised on an equal playing field.


We all study and graduate with the same qualification (a Bachelor of Pharmacy) yet there’s a:


  • Lack of respect - Do men feel uncomfortable having a female boss? Why? Does it diminish their masculinity? How?

  • Lack of opportunity - Not that many women are invited into senior executive roles in large companies

  • Bias - often unconsciously men are not even aware that they are making decisions about women’s careers based on these biases. Yet, women are also not challenging or negotiating for what they want

  • Stereotypes - woman can be stereotyped as emotional when we may just be passionate. Generally we are softer spoken, more sensitive, more emotional and more of a helper.

  • Self-doubt - women need to be confident in themselves and their ability to do anything anyone can do not just a man. I haven’t always made the best decisions or done the right thing, but I have gained respect from the good work that I have done and developed an ability to constantly learn and change, and that in my opinion is what makes a good leader.


The gender pay gap

There is no logical reason for women to be paid less if we are putting in equal amount of work and effort with the same or even higher qualifications. Ironically, women who push for diversity and advocate for other women are often penalised for doing that.


Quotas or targets on boards or in organisations

Perhaps the government should introduce gender board quotas and self-reporting on progress of women in leadership and make it standard practice to create some momentum in the area. A merit-based system of appointment will mean assessment is based on work ethic and ability to perform a job rather than other factors like gender.


Being female and using social media

Last year I joined twitter, and it was to keep up to date with the profession, just as Facebook had allowed me to do. In a day and age where technology is a prime form of communication, it was important for me to be involved in online discussions and forums. It’s interesting for me to say this though because it has been found that men predominantly use social media for business reasons and to gather the information they need to build influence. Social media helps them perform research, gather relevant contacts and ultimately increase their status. On the other hand, women predominantly use social media to share more personal information, revealing more about their personal lives. Women are more vocal, expressive and willing to share which suggests women are more biologically wired for social networking; to make connections and stay in touch with family or friends. If we take twitter as an example, 22% of women are active tweeters, compared to just 15% of men. Facebook, which is used by 71% of the online population, is dominated by women (76 percent) as opposed to men (66 percent). On average, women have more than twice as many posts on their Facebook walls and they have 8% more ‘friends’ than men. Interestingly enough, the one social network that boasts more men (24%) than women (19%) is the professional-networking site LinkedIn.


Society needs to start accepting women as capable to accomplish anything. Success should not be dependent on what gender you are. The challenges are still less than they were 50 years ago, and will hopefully continue to become less 50 years from now.


If chemist warehouse can transform the traditional model of community pharmacy, why can’t the profession transform the traditional stereotypes of women?


Shefali Parekh

Marketing Consultant

Raven's Recruitment