Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Better the Balance, Better the World

On Friday 8 March, International Women’s Day 2019 (IWD) will celebrate the incredible  
achievements of women with the theme Balance for Better. 

By raising awareness and acknowledging the important goal to achieve gender balance between men and women, IWD inspires the community to debate and discuss all we are yet to achieve.

This year’s theme resonates strongly with me. The word ‘balance’ best describes what women continue to ask for - and I find my voice amongst their many.

When it comes to discussing and implementing gender balance in our personal and professional lives, we continue to find ourselves at the starting gates. Whether it’s balance in diversity, equality, financial success, positions in the board room, within government, media and sport, the equilibrium favours men.  

We continue to have false starts when it comes to gender balance in Australia.
·       One of our core political parties, The Australian Liberal Party, consists of white, pale-stale men, preceding as reputation as a boys’ only club.
·       Australia ranks 48th in the world in favour of female political empowerment.
·       Women earn 15.3% less than men.
·       Women aged between 60-64 will retire on half the superannuation that men will.
·       In fact, many women will retire into poverty.
·       Women in Australia work an extra 56 days to earn the same money as men for the same job.
·       Women spend twice as many hours each day performing unpaid care work.
·       1 woman a week is killed in Australia by her current or former partner.
·       1 in 2 women have reported experiencing workplace discrimination
These facts drive home that what we’ve yet to achieve outweighs what we’ve accomplished to date.

I see that the world is waking up from its long slumber and is demanding balance. Women notice the imbalance in different circumstances and are more confident to call it out. Today, the voice of the people who see inequality is much louder than ever before. The most recent example of public protest being the sister rallies in the USA, opposing Trump, demanding equality and an end violence against women.

Balance for business
We understand balance to be a state of equality and parity – yet our lived experience in business is a long way from this ideal.
Balance is certainly not having one woman on your board, or one woman on your leadership team - where it is impossible to hear their opinion amongst numbers of men. While women remain a minority in leadership positions and on boards, they are working together to present a strong, influential voice that embraces their collective thoughts and opinions.
Recent surveys by McKinsey and PWC have revealed that businesses employing people from different backgrounds are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors. Powerfully, 86% of female millennials will only consider a prospective employer depending on their diversity, equality and inclusion policies.
The conversation about diversity in Australia is very much based on gender and diversity. Balance is not just about equalizing the playing field for women - balance is about more people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, sexualities and abilities.

Even though 1 in every 4 Australian is a migrant, the diversity gap and cultural glass ceiling is very real in Australia. Between 2004 and 2015, placement of women with ethnic backgrounds in executive roles in Australia increased by only .9%. Our multicultural and diverse communities are under-represented in corporate Australia, which has a negative impact on a local, national and global scale.

My journey of being a female leader from a culturally and linguistically-diverse background has been challenging. People see my colour before they see me as a woman, and I have always wanted to achieve more than the opportunities presented to me. I’ve had to work twice as hard to get half as far.

We need to closely look at the issue of balance in business through a different lens. If we can do that, the next step would be to ask the question: how do we shift the current paradigm?

·       It starts with our government, communities, business leaders and most importantly, with us.
·       Be hyper-aware of the levels of balance in your business.
·       Commit to business strategies that will have a positive impact within a certain time frame.
·       Make sure your talent pipeline is balanced.
·       Connect with those in your organisation who are from diverse backgrounds. Ask about their journey, their challenges and share their stories to gain an understanding and positive connection.
·       Engage customers with this vision and your direction towards diversity. It is just as important for them to be aware of your values as it is for you to live them.  
·       Don’t outsource or make it HR’s responsibility to achieve balance. Ensure your organisation’s business strategy reflects your community and role as a leader.

You can’t be what you can’t see!
In 2013 I was at a breakfast with the Victorian Telstra Finalists and we were all seated around a large round table, each one of us eyeing the other, making mental notes on who we thought would win.

Part of the morning was dedicated to getting to know each other, share who we are, what we did and a little about our businesses. This breakfast was a turning point for me. As I listened to all these amazing women, I realised something about myself that horrified me.

I did business like a man. Upon reflection, the reason I did business ‘like a man’ was quite simple. All my role models and mentors were men. I was a part of the first-wave of strong female leaders with robust opinions and goal-driven aspirations – like most men in business. There are many women in organisations around the country (just like me) that only have male role models. If we are serious about balance, male and female leaders need to make stronger connections with talented female mentors in business and beyond. 

Without a doubt, balance is the option we need and deserve as a community. If we can’t see it in our workplaces and our homes, then we can’t be it. If we better the balance, we will better the world. We could make huge gains towards balance if leaders made equality a priority and core to their business strategy.

This is not an issue for our children to fix. It is up to us to ensure that the next generation inherits a better, more balanced world.

Thursday, March 9, 2017


March 8th saw us celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) with the theme #beboldforchange.
This day has been celebrated since the early 1900s and is a day where we recognise the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
Last year’s theme- #pledgeforparity- had me recently questioning whether we saw change throughout 2016 and if we genuinely did take steps to move closer to parity.
  • ·        National gender pay gap is 16.2 per cent, down from 19 per cent in 2016
  • ·        The fulltime average weekly earnings difference is $260.10
  • ·        The gender pay gap in ASX 200 organizations is 28.7 per cent
  • ·        The gender pay gap in the sporting industry is 50 per cent
  • ·        The average superannuation balance for women at retirement is 52.8 per cent less than men
  • ·        The proportion of CEOs who are female is 15.4 per cent
  • ·        Out of Melbourne’s 106 suburbs, a single woman can only afford to rent one bedroom flats in just over a quarter of the city.

Equality is a core human value which women have been asking for in every country across the globe for centuries. According to the World Economic Forum, we won’t reach global parity in social or economic terms until 2186.  

The 2017 IWD #beboldforchange is a call out to women to step up and boldly ask for what they want. We have come a long way but there is still much more to do.

The IWD 2017 theme this year strikes a chord with me. I believe women are bold; we are bold enough to have children, to leave them in care and go back to work, to go to war and to lead countries. We are getting bolder in asking for what we want, in pursuing our dreams and desires and many of us are bold enough to walk away from what doesn't make us happy. We can be single and do it on our own.

My question is when are Australia’s leaders going to be bold and drive significant and rapid change on the issues of diversity, parity and equality?

The IWD call to action should include a call out to our government and business leaders who have the power to accelerate equality through bold policy making, diverse recruitment strategies, and a moral compass set so high that we start to influence the issue globally.

The current economic gap has a resounding impact, especially on my generation. Now more than ever we need business leaders to model the behaviours and set the tone in their work environments to elevate and positively impact this issue. We need to smash the glass ceiling from the inside.

Targets and quotas to achieve gender diversity have created much debate and this would be an example of a bold move. However, there is a difference between targets and quotas. Targets are measurable objectives set by an organisation at their own discretion. Quotas are mandatory, set externally by anybody that has the authority to impose them. I believe targets are a bold move, if we go down the path of quotas then we will have failed as leaders.    

On this International Women’s Day, let’s pledge to be bold leaders, to take action and to do more than ever before.

·        Audit your organisation and if what you see is more of you, whether it be in gender or colour, change it 
·        Measure and be aware of the gaps in your hiring, remuneration and promotion policy
·        Find mentors and sponsors for your high potential women
·        Be conscious of unconscious bias, we have all been guilty of this
·        Measure the results of actions taken
·        Importantly, make men part of this journey
Be bold for change also requires us to be bold for action. Without action, we won’t have ground breaking results, we won’t achieve a gender inclusive world, we won’t have responsive and responsible leaders and the gap won’t close until 2186.

My ask is not just for women to be bold for change but for all leaders to be equally bold for change. What conversations can you start with your people? Who can you influence outside of your organisation to go on the same journey as you? What changes can you make quickly that will connect and unite your entire workforce?

Every March 8 we raise awareness about the same issues using different words. This year, let’s be bold enough to deliberately measure the changes we make across our organisation. Not only is this great for business, but remarkable for humanity and memorable for future generations.

Remember equality is not a threat, it is a social, economic, political opportunity.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Women gaining parity, largest pay gap reduction in years.

Did this headline make your heart skip a beat?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this headline was accurate? The sad reality is that it isn’t one I believe I will see in my lifetime.  
The research on the gender pay gap released in Nov shows working women earning $27K less than men and, as women climb the corporate ladder, the pay gap can be as wide as $100K.
There has been a 1.6 percent improvement, I am not celebrating this or seeing it as a positive, I see it as leaders ignoring the issue. Companies may have polices in place but are they taking action, because if they were would we not see a higher improvement?
Those few companies that are proactive on this issue, let’s hear from their leaders on the positive impact this is having on their organisation and workforce.
If you google this issue you will find the same numbers, stats, articles, comments, research over the last four years. This is not just an issue in Australia, it’s an issue globally.
Women are told to ask for what you want, lean in, understand your value and what you bring to the table, get better at negotiating, find an organisation that will pay you what you are worth.
Frankly I am tired of hearing this. Here is the stark reality:
Women are getting better at asking for what they want, in fact, the next generation will perhaps nail this. It is the leaders who are not listening or taking action!
The fact that leaders have not collectively addressed this issue and worked collaboratively to make the changes tells me that they are not listening, that they do not understand the impact the pay gap has on women and that we have gone from a conscious boys club to an unconscious one.
I am often surprised by the number of women who do not understand this issue, they remain silent or they simplify the issue. This disrespects women, who are brave enough to voice an opinion. Women often are our own worst enemies on this issue.
So where do we go to next? Targets and quotas do not address the pay gap and this issue is more important than targets and quotas as it addresses the financial independence of women that impacts their buying power, their investment capabilities and their retirement fund.
  • Would men work for $27,000 less than their female counterparts?
  • What would happen if 1 in 3 men retired on no superannuation?
  • What would happen if 40% of single men retired into poverty?
  • Would a bank tell a man that he is high risk for a loan because he is single?
  • Would men entering the work force today want to work 4 more years than women before they retire?
Would male graduates today be tolerant of the fact that their financial disadvantage starts now and will be with them at every single stage of their career?
I would suggest that the answer would be no to all the above, so why the hell should women accept this?
For those women out there who think this is not a problem, I urge you to do your research, talk to other women and understand the issue so you may add your voice to it.
Over the next few weeks, more and more will be written about this research, we will hear about it in conferences, yet the reality is that none of this has made a difference to date.
Maybe we need to take action that will create headlines, do we work less hours until we get parity? Do we walk the streets with banners until we are heard? After all we have burned bra’s before….

Friday, November 4, 2016

Closing the pay gap is more important than meeting targets and quotas

Why, you ask? The answer is simple. 

Housing affordability for single women is a key reason why the government and business leaders need to take affirmative action on the issue of Australia’s pay gap. 

The ultimate dream for many Australian families is still to own a one-acre block of land. To accommodate this, we have witnessed rapid urban sprawl around many capital cities. 

However, there are more of us who are choosing to be single or divorced and are therefore downsizing from dual income to single income households. Women are impacted more significantly when making this choice than men.
The pay gap in Australia sits at just under 19% and there are number of reasons why it exists. 

Women are more likely to work in industries that pay less such as healthcare, education, human resources, administration, food services, retail and hotels . More women also choose to work part time, job share or take long career breaks to be carers of their children. Let’s not forget to mention those awesome women who choose to stay at home full time and are responsible for the “unpaid” work of raising a family and running a household. 

However, there are many organisations who will pay women less than men with no explainable reason other than the fact they are women. 

Have you considered the impact you are having when you pay equally skilled and experienced women less than the male counterparts you employ?
Over the last 10 years, every single market in Australia has seen significant property price increases impacting the lowest income earners, in particular women.  

The Council of Homeless Persons has done a study using DHS and ABS data on this issue of affordability for single women in Melbourne. 

Out of Melbourne’s 106 suburbs, a single woman can only afford to rent one bedroom flats in just over a quarter of the city. 

In March 2000, 72 suburbs were deemed affordable for women meaning we have witnessed a substantial reduction in choice over 16 years.
This is partially due to median rent for a one bedroom flat increasing from $129 dollars to $295 per week. 

At $295 a week, many women will be experiencing rental stress, an anxiety caused when spending over 30% of wages on housing.  

A single man on an average wage of $1305 a week, can afford to rent in 95 of the 106 suburbs. 

There is significant disparity in these numbers. 
Affordable suburbs for women include Bayswater, Frankston and Cranbourne. 

The majority of the suburbs listed are not inner city suburbs worsening expenses for transport and fuel. 

So not only are you being pushed to the fringes of Melbourne to live as a single woman, you are having to perhaps make further choices on where you work and the types of jobs that are available to you.

Given the rate of divorce in Australia, there are increasingly more women who head up single parent families. These women are not only getting paid less but may be in part time employment. Their lack of earning capacity means they too are getting priced out of the rental market. 

Public housing is not the answer, with over 200,000 on waiting lists across the country. 

The 2011 census indicates that there are over 600,000 single women over the age of 45 on medium to low incomes who do not own their own homes. There are half the men in the same situation. As these women retire they will struggle to pay rent as the cost of living and utilities continues to rise.
So by 2020 we will potentially see:

  • Increases in the gap between the supply of affordable housing relative to income
  • A rise in the over-representation of women with children and elderly women who are homeless
  • Increased stress on public housing
The issue of the gender pay gap has reverberating consequences.

I am a woman born in 1966 and fortunately, retirement for me does not look like living off a government pension. 

However, I am a single parent and I constantly am seeking ways to secure long term financial security that my male counterparts don’t seem to understand.
Housing affordability is an issue when I have commitments to my children’s education and well being.

My teenage daughter who will graduate with honours next year will face the prospect of her employer paying her 9.3% less simply because she is female. This will impact where she chooses to live, transport and general living costs.
The issue of affordability for single women in our communities will only get worse unless addressed. 

Government and businesses are discussing the need for quotas and targets to ensure equal representation. However, what is the point of equal representation at board and director level if the majority of women in the workplace cannot afford housing?

The ongoing economic impact on single women demands that we prioritise closing the pay gap to ensure we do not continue to marginalise their children, well being or lifestyle. And not only that, but to ensure single women, in particular, have the option to enjoy the same quality of life as their male counterparts.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

I am sitting at the airport on my way home to Melbourne. I am exhausted, my body hurts, my brain is fogged, I have had only three hours sleep but all of this fades because my heart is full of joy, pride, love and connections that will last a lifetime. 

I have just spent a week on the Gold Coast at our national conference. We broke many records - highest attendance at conference, highest attendance at awards, most award wins ever for Victoria, first wins for many of our offices and agents but what stands out the most has been the leadership, the camaraderie, the celebrations, of a tribe that is connected through values we all aspire to live by and the culture we belong to.

Culture is how we do things here and at Harcourts we do things with our hearts and our heads. 

Now you may say I have been drinking the Harcourts cordial and maybe I have. However, having worked in many different brands I know that the culture of an organisation is what keeps people there. People are loyal to culture not to strategy

A strategy is what we put on a piece of paper and although important the reality is anyone can come up with a strategy. It is much harder to create a winning culture. Often if your strategy is poor yet your culture strong you will still gain success.

If your culture is a strong one and people are loyal to it, then you build resilience as a business and when you hit turbulent times, it is these loyal people who get you through.

A great culture creates a competitive advantage, it attracts people to your business, it attracts customers and it becomes part of your brand. Virgin is a great example of this where the culture that Branson has created has become part of the brand and client experience.

I recently attended a lunch where Blake Mycoskie, the founder of Toms Shoes was speaking. For every pair of Toms shoes that is sold, a pair is given to an improvised child. The concept is called one for one – imagine writing a strategy around this.

Toms inspired people to get behind the brand and concept and give back in a unique way, they were able to involve not just their own people but their clients as well.

Harcourts Walk a Mile has become part of our culture. We are able to involve not just our own people but the greater community to walk with us and make a stand against violence towards women.

One of things I have learnt in business is that strategy can be copied, however you cannot copy or duplicate culture. Every organisation has a culture, however for many the culture has just grown or happened, there has been no thought given to it, there is no plan in place, leaders have not asked the question what type of place do we need to create so people want to belong to it. In my team, we bleed blue, and we are proud of it. However, that in turn bleeds into our network, the culture we have created is viral.

Don’t you want to belong to a tribe that makes you feel the way I do, that challenges you to be the best version of yourself, that celebrates your success, that supports you in times of need, that knows the gaps in your business and plans with you to reduce them and leaders who fiercely protect you and have your back every step of the way. 

If your tribe isn’t making you feel the way I do after a week of conference and three hours sleep maybe it’s time you considered changing your tribe to one that will. 

There is one sure rule in business and that is that culture will always eat strategy for breakfast. If your environment and relationships are toxic it will impact the performance of your business. 

So as I boarded my flight homeward bound, looking forward to my head hitting the pillow I knew that I am privileged to lead a brand where the vibe is bold, visionary, exciting, inspiring and connected. We know who we are, what we stand for and where we are heading. The future is truly exciting