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How companies can close the gender gap in leadership

Executive Interview Coaching founder Richard Elstone recently chatted with Michelle Redfern to discuss the gender gap in leadership and how she plans to help the next generation of women CEOs make it to the top.

Michelle is a globally recognised gender equality, diversity and inclusion strategist. She advises organisations in the business and sporting sectors on DEI strategy development and implementation and works directly with women leaders to advance their careers.

Here is Richard’s Q and A with her.

What’s the latest with women in leadership?

“The reality is globally we’re seeing the representation of women in leadership stalling,” says Michelle.

“We still only see 6% of Fortune 500 companies led by women. Here in Australia in our top 200 companies, only 11% of CEOs are women.

“We need to accelerate the representation of women.”

According to the Australian Government’s National Strategy to Achieve Gender Equality – Discussion Paper, women remain under-represented in all key decision-making roles across almost all industries in the Australian workforce. Women comprise only 22.3 per cent of CEOs, 35.1 per cent of key management positions, 34 per cent of board members, and 18 per cent of board chairs.

Even in female-dominated industries, men are still more likely to hold more senior positions, according to the paper.

How do we address this issue?

Michelle says there’s a long way to go in Australia and part of it comes down to changing the discourse around women in leadership.

“I’m seeing conversation that I haven’t had to have for a while about what the benefits are of having greater diversity in leadership,” she says.

“There are still some resisters out there saying why is it a good idea? I haven’t had to do a business case for some time about gender equality and for me, it’s an orange flag.”

What does the research say?

Studies have shown companies with more women on their boards, for example, significantly outperform those without. What’s more, organisations with greater gender diversity among senior leaders are more profitable.

“We all know that if you have homogenous groups running any environment, whether it’s an ASX or a Fortune 500 company or a sporting organisation, you’re not going to tap into that enormous wealth of lived experience that’s going to help you innovate, solve problems and grow the organisation in a sustainable way,” says Michelle.

So, what can organisations looking to close the gender gap do about it?

Michelle says a great place to start is to sponsor aspiring women leaders to attend the upcoming Lead to Soar Summit. The summit aims to support organisations to convert their DEI commitments into action and outcomes.

In addition to teaching women the art of strategic networking, the summit’s focus is to help women develop and demonstrate their Business Intelligence (BQ) skills – specifically business, strategic and financial acumen skills.

What will the women executives get out of it?

Michelle says most career coaching directed towards women does not include advice about how to develop and demonstrate BQ skills. Meanwhile, 58% of the executive and C-suite roles criteria are related to BQ.

“Women are given a lot of advice, but not the advice we need to be CEOs,” she says. “To make it, they have to have business intelligence skills.

“Our summit and all of the work that I do around women’s leadership is centred on helping women develop and demonstrate those critical business intelligence skills.

“If women and the organisations that employ women are serious about their ambitions to become executives, C-suite executives, CEOs and be those people who are shaping and growing organisations, then I have some things that they need to know.”

How can women leaders secure a ticket?

The 2-day Lead to Soar Summit runs from Nov 23-24 in Melbourne. It’s for women leaders, whether aspiring or current, who are ready to reach their full potential.

Book here for an exclusive $200 discount.

Looking to land your next executive role?

Executive Interview Coaching offers a range of services to help executives progress their career goals and land their dream executive appointment. Around 65% of the clients we work with are women.

To find out more, get in touch today.

About Michelle Redfern

Michelle Redfern is an award-winning advisor and experienced facilitator known for her inspiration and boundless energy. As a leading advocate for women's advancement and DEI, she has been recognised as one of Australia's Top 100 Women of Influence by the Australian Financial Review and other awards for her contributions to women in business and sport. Her commitment is to help leaders create and sustain workplaces that work for every human.


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