In this conversation with David Thodey, Chair of CSIRO, Dr Órla NicDomhnaill discusses the limited progress made in Australia in Gender diversity and equality in the past five years and what organisations and particularly CEOs should do to tackle this challenge.

Australia has much to be proud of when it comes to the recent push towards greater gender representation and equality, but at the same time, a great deal of progress remains to be made. Over the years, I’ve discussed and debated gender equality with CEOs and other business leaders, including those responsible for talent sourcing and development. In these conversations, I’ve found that, while these leaders appreciated the small steps forward they’d been able to take in this arena professionally, and applauded the progress they’d seen on the national front, they were also frustrated that their endeavours hadn’t yielded more impactful results.

Despite their heartfelt vows and committed efforts, their “outcome” metrics continued to fall short of their goals for progress, and this left them feeling discouraged and concerned. The pace of progress in the C-suite and executive ranks has been particularly frustrating.

Slow progress 

The statistics align with these sentiments, and they show the mixed progress we’ve made as a nation. On the plus side, in the past five years the country’s gender pay gap has been reduced from 26 to 19 percent (Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 2016). Further, female representation on ASX 200 Boards has almost doubled, from 11 to 20 percent, since the introduction of the “If not, why not” reporting requirements.

Nonetheless, the latest demographic data suggests that we still have a long road ahead. There’s a dearth of female representation in the C-suite, and while women make up 32 percent of senior manager roles, only 17 percent of them are CEOs (Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 2015). Of the top 200 companies in Australia, only 12 are led by women. In fact, there are more CEOs named Peter than female CEOs in the entire country (Dent, 2015).

The interview: new perspectives and a way forward

In my own search for more answers, I recently sat down with David Thodey, former CEO of Telstra and current Chair of CSIRO, to discuss his perspective on and advice for achieving gender equality in Australia. David has long been an advocate for change in this arena. What follows is my Q&A with him on this topic, and then my own response and viewpoint, which includes a set of ten key actions that I believe can drive progress and create a path forward from here. While David and I each believe there is no clear panacea that will swiftly solve the problem, we do believe there are many ways to compel and embed necessary change.

Download the interview and 10 key actions that your organisation can implement to foster changes in diversity and inclusion. I would love to hear your views, please leave your comments below.


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