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Companies with females in executive positions outperform those without

08 Mar 2017

Companies with females in executive positions outperform those without, according to members of an International Women’s Day discussion panel at the Business School.

The panel, mediated by Associate Professor Rae Cooper, discussed the under-representation of women in senior management roles, the benefits of diversity in the workplace, workplace sexual harassment, and imminent changes to parental leave, childcare and welfare payment legislation.

Other members of the high powered panel included the General Manager of OFX, Marina Trusa, Head of Tribeca Client Relationships and Marketing, Alexandra McGuigan, Chair of the Discipline of Work and Organisational Studies, Professor Marian Baird AO, and Work and Organisational Studies Doctoral Candidate, Sally Hanna-Osborne.

All urged companies to celebrate gender equality and diversity in the workplace as a means to increase profits.

“More diverse boards actually make much more profitable decisions for the company,” said Ms Trusa, quoting research from Credit Suisse. “Market returns for those companies where the females were selected in executive positions actually outperformed the companies that did not.”

“If you have people coming from the same background, from the same views, they will have more blind spots, because they’re going to think the same, they’re going to argue less, they’re going make decisions faster,” said Ms Trusa.

“But if you have all different opinions, there will be much more arguing, but decisions that are made will be much more interesting and much more thought through.”

“If gender equality is not executed, celebrated, spoken about on a daily basis, you’re still going to have the same sexist situations,” added Ms Trusa.

The number of women in key leadership positions fell in 2017, with only nine women CEOs and 10 women chairing boards in the ASX 200.

“Women in funds management hold less than 10% leadership roles. As a comparison for positions in Australia that require the same amount of education, 37% of lawyers are female, and 33% of doctors are female,” said Ms McGuigan.

“I work in superannuation, and if you’re actually thinking about the returns on the investment, all of the research proves that diverse teams provide better outcomes – with race as well as gender – but gender balanced teams always outperform.”

Professor Marian Baird AO, coincided the launch of her book ‘Women, Work and Care in the Asia-Pacific’ with International Women’s Day. The book is the first of its kind ever published.

“In Australia today there are still some very important, critical policy issues that we haven’t addressed and are under attack right now,” said Professor Baird “There’s a bill before parliament called the Omnibus bill. It will cut paid parental leave payments, it will shift childcare arrangements – some of those for the better – and it will make differences to women’s ability to receive welfare payments from the government.”

“Now that bill is very problematic because what it has done is tie together three incredibly important policies in Australia, parental leave, childcare and welfare payments, and it says you can’t improve one without cutting the other. I think it’s a very sad indictment on policy making when you see we have to trade off those sorts of issues,” said Professor Baird.

“You’ll notice that it’s mostly men making those policy decisions, with very little debate about the impact. To me it’s a real problem that we still can’t get to a point in Australia where we accept that we have to do something positive about the policy platform, and not wind it back,” said Professor Baird.

Speaking at the event, Dean of the Business School, Professor Greg Whitwell, congratulated the Business School’s staff for being “very powerful public advocates for the need for change” in gender equality.

“Our commitment is also reflected in our research, our teaching and our learning,” said Professor Whitwell. “But the reality is, we have a very long way to go. International Women’s Day for me then is a call to action to remedy this.”