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

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Telstra's ethical outage

Telstra has removed support from same sex marriage!
As an award winner of the prestigious Telstra Business Womens Awards this decision disappoints me. The awards has always been about diversity, excellence and community regardless of ethnicity and sexual orientation. More importantly the awards is about celebrating a group that faces  discrimination in the work place. Yet here they are bowing to the Catholic Church and removing their support of a minority group - LGBTI. 
It seems religious organizations are influencing corporations, the church supposedly threatening to withdraw contracts from Telstra if they do not back away from their public support of same sex marriage. 
Given Telstra's competitors are strong supporters og LGBTI rights where would they go?
Have we gone backwards in time and someone forgot to tell me.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

How will you pledge for parity?

March 8th 2016 see’s us celebrate International Women’s day with the theme – Pledge for parity.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 was “#make it happen” and the question I always ask myself at this time of year, like I have every other year, is what did we change and how much closer are we to parity?

Here’s what I do know:·        The pay gap here in Australia is at its widest sitting at just under 19%
·        This disparity in the pay gap impacts a woman’s ability to obtain a home loan or save a deposit for a home/investment
·        1 woman a week is killed by her partner or someone known to her
·        Domestic violence is the main cause of homelessness for women and children in Australia (White Ribbon)
·        Diversity of women in the workplace is not currently representative of our communities
·        Women retire on 1/3 less superannuation than their male counterparts (Human Rights Commission)
·        40% of women who retire claim their main source of income as the government pension and they make up 55.7% of the age pension recipients (ABS)
·        Women are still sexualised in advertising, by men the men she works with and business leaders
The issue of gender equality is not unique to Australia, it is a global issue which, according to The World Economic Forum, will take until 2133 to entirely close the economic gender gap and gain gender parity in areas such as economics, politics, education and health.

March 8th, International Women's Day, provides a global opportunity for everyone (men and women) to pledge support to help accelerate gender parity.

For those of us who are business leaders and managers across the globe, it is our responsibility to ensure that we have balanced leadership structures and boards, not just in regards to gender but ethnic diversity as well. We must be focused on creating environments where women will thrive, be ambitious, gain success and not have the concerns of being labelled, bullied or have workplace bias, colour, cultural background and pregnancy impact their career progression.If we were able to achieve this imagine the limitless potential our businesses would have, not to mention the impact on the bottom line of not just the business but the economies we operate in. We have a large pool of female talent available to us that many are simply not tapping into.

This form of leadership, however, needs to be thought out, focused and produce decisions that are deliberate. We need leaders who will be brave, who will take the lead, who will speak up and speak out and who will commit to taking actions.
Leaders like the former army Chief David Morrison, AO, named the Australian of the Year 2016, his commitment to gender equality, diversity and inclusion is a beacon for other leaders.

Australia is a melting pot of people from all ethnic backgrounds, they in turn have cultural influences in our communities and businesses. Yet in many of our business we are often surrounded by white male baby boomers.  Taking into account past migration trends and the current global climate of influences out of China, the next wave perhaps being India and then Indonesia we need to ensure that our businesses are a reflection of the communities we live in.  

A lack of diversity in gender and/or race means that we are stifling our innovation, creativity and thinking as well as the important cultural nuances of doing business offshore. Consider what impact will this have on business long term?If you are a male reading this article, understand that you have a role to play in how the issue of gender balance is resolved. It’s simple really, there are more men in leadership roles than women and you have the power to make decisions that will drive change in your business. We need you to become our champions, our ambassadors.

We need to tackle this issue together, side-by-side as partners working together to create better businesses, workplaces, products, cultures and future leaders. However, most importantly, we need to leave behind a legacy we can be proud of for our sons and daughters.

How many men reading this today will take on the role of changing perceptions and behaviours of other men they work with? How many leaders will make a conscious decision to change how their business recruits and supports women through various stages of their careers creating a ripple effect that will eventually become a tsunami of change?

I believe the future is one where we do have gender balance, where our businesses are as diverse as the communities we work in and that businesses leaders who don’t embrace this will run the risk of their business becoming obsolete. 

However I do not want to wait until 2133 to achieve this. The world is getting smaller, we are more connected than ever before, individual influence and reach is greater, all of this enables rapid change. If we don’t pledge for parity now and make deliberate necessary changes, when will we? If we don’t take responsibility for equality why will future generations?

Let’s not wait until governments start to legislate for quotas and targets, deep down we all know this is not the right option. We don’t want to operate in a world where equality and diversity is forced upon us, where we will have to tick boxes on who we hire and therefore possibly allowing merit to become secondary as gender becomes the priority to meet a required number.

How will you pledge for parity in 2016? What conversations will you start, who you will influence, what changes will you make in your organisations, who will you mentor and elevate? How will you consciously make decisions this year that will be great for business, remarkable for humanity, memorable for future generations and simply good for your soul?  

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Your tribe is a reflection of your leadership - are they following or leaving you?

Your workplace is your tribe, people who you spend significant time with on a regular basis, you may even socialise with them after hours. If you google the meaning of the word Tribe, the most common informal meaning is - a group that people belong to. 
According to the Oxford dictionary a tribe is - a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.
So what are some of the elements of a tribe in the work place we need to consider or connect with that will make us stay?
Belonging - Is the place you work create a sense of belonging? Is it where you really want to be?
Think back to the time when you went for the job interview for your current role. When you walked into the office you would have surveyed the building, taken note of the reception area, how people behaved and engaged with the person conducting the interview. When you walked out you would have made a decision as to whether you wanted to work there or not. 
Now that you have been there for a while - long or short term, has the reason why you selected your tribe still exist? Have they met all the promises made? Is there a future there for you that will provide you with long term financial security that you will not find anywhere else?
Leader of the pack
The leader of an organisation is often the one who sets the standards of accepted behaviour and performance that becomes part of your culture. They will create drive and change culture; how they behave and manage their people and business affects everyone.
Change needs to be lead from the top. If, for example, our leaders are not interested in training or learning, then neither will the employees. People look to their leaders not so much for what they say but more for what they do.
If you are in a senior position or have been with the business for a significant period of time people will look at you as a leader. Are you behaving like one?
How are the leaders in your tribe behaving, is there mutual respect, do they drive change, is culture important, is your success important to them, have they put in place a plan that will help you achieve your goals?
Creating the right culture
When you open your doors for business on the first day you will have a vision and goals that you wish to achieve. Making a profit is probably at the top of the list and there is a link between creating the right culture and your bottom line.
As your business grows and you employ people you will set in place systems and processes that work and you value. Examples of these are Monday morning sales meetings, Tuesday morning training sessions, caravans, monthly group meetings, professional development days, customer service standards, performance driven teams who celebrate success, where opinions are valued which then become part of your business and culture.
However poor performance, back stabbing, bitchiness, poor decision making can also become part of a culture.
Remember culture is very much about the way we chose to do things and what we value and the messages we send out and receive. Leaders and managers in an organisation impact directly upon this.
Recruiting the right people to fit into your culture is important. Induction programs, buddy systems, training programs are various ways to do this. It is human nature to want to belong to a tribe and when we are invited in we make changes to our behaviour to fit in otherwise we get ejected or we choose to leave.
When recruiting from other organisations be aware that what you have created can be changed or diluted and it is imperative that new members of your tribe understand why you do things the way you do.
If an employee does not fit into your culture they will often choose to leave and move elsewhere. Be aware of those that don’t and manage them out before they have a negative impact on the group.
Each one of us has value sets that we take through life and these can have an impact on what we chose to do on a daily basis. We spend our life making choices on what is important, vital, and necessary or a luxury.
As managers and leaders we need to recognise that everyone in the work place has different values and sometimes it may lead to issues or influence decisions that we are making.
There will be lines that people are simply not prepared to step over, recognise this and work with them to find a middle ground.
In a large organisation there are many leaders, they impact and create their own culture within their business units. There is no such thing as one culture in these businesses but as many as the number of managers, directors and leaders you have. How do you build a culture that is strong and evolving – you hold people accountable for the culture that they build in their businesses.
In smaller organisations that manager or director has a direct and immediate impact on the culture of the business. How they behave, the decisions that are made, systems and processes, all play a part.
Cultural change
Culture is taught, learned and shared, it is what we do, think and feel. It rules almost every aspect of our lives and more often then not we are completely unaware of it. Culture within an organisation is important as it sets boundaries on accepted behaviour and allows teams to work with each other.
When trying to change a culture in an organisation you will have people who will resist and form mini armies to fight the enemy, others will simply sit on the fence and may or may not chose to influence parties and those who will embrace changes with enthusiasm with the attitude of ‘bring it on’.
Those who are against change will choose to move on or may need to be encouraged to leave and your fence sitters must make a choice either way.
Leaders and managers play an influential role dependant on their ability, rapport, communication and motivational skills.
Cultural change can be as simple as changing the format of a conference and as complicated as going from a single office to a franchise organisation.
Getting it right
The culture of your organisation can be a competitive advantage as are your people. Many businesses today don’t fully understand the impact of culture and often will simply let it evolve. The issue with this is get it wrong and your business will suffer, get it right however and it will create an environment for your people to thrive in.
Stop and think about what messages you are sending out to your people, what is your culture, has it evolved, are you driving it?
Remember culture is a powerful tool that you can use to drive performance and productivity however if you choose to ignore it and hope for the best the chances are that the tribe will be voting to opt out and join up with your competitors