Gender equality has to remain a focus. We cannot stop

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This morning one of our team shared an article that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald with the headline Women should take lead on insurance industry equality, says Lloyd’s Australian rep Chris Mackinnon[1].  

He acknowledges that while the insurance industry was not a great diversity example yet (it still needs a large amount of work to be done in this area) women can do a great deal themselves to bring about change by applying for positions and putting themselves forward for roles.

Based on the programs we have designed and facilitated for women in middle and senior management tiers over the past thirteen years this is not as easy to achieve as Chris’ statement may suggest.   One of the major challenges we find with women is confidence.

As far back as 2008 a study by Peter Berry and Associates involving more than 1,800 Australian male and female managers found that overall, women have a stronger personality type than men for senior leadership and management roles when measured on eight dimensions.

On the key issue of strategic drive, female leaders scored higher than males. The research report says, “[Females] will be more confident, competitive, visionary and have a stronger presence.” And they were stronger on people skills.  “They need and enjoy companionship, will be more diplomatic and thoughtful in their relationships, will care about people and have a strong sense around the importance of teams, networks and communities.”

Males outperform females on bottom-line dollars, showing that their key motivation is around revenue, budgets and profit.  “In the private sector and in other organisations concerned with fiscal performance, this offers males an advantage.  “If you are looking for hard-nosed, take-no-prisoners performance, then males have the stronger profile. ” Males have scored higher on “control and command” and “bottom line dollars”.  “Because [men] dominate executive positions, these two factors will set the tone of the culture for the whole of the organisation.”

Mario Lackner in his paper for IZA World of Labour Gender Differences in Competitiveness: to what extent can different attitudes towards competition for men and women explain the gender gap in labour markets? [2] suggests in the right conditions and circumstances low competitiveness and confidence is a contributor to women not wanting to apply for roles.

Lackner’s findings indicate:

  • Attitudes towards competiveness are formed early in life
  • In certain circumstances women may consciously choose to be less competitive
  • Social environment and personal history are important in forming attitudes towards competition for women and men
  • Women are less likely to put themselves forward for promotion
  • Men err on the side of being over-competitive and over-confident, while in similar circumstances women tend to be less competitive and exhibit lower confidence

In our work in this area we often see the latter points in play.

Research by La Trobe University[3] over a seven year period found companies with greater board diversity deliver better performance.  Further, a 2015 report[4] looking at 4,000 companies globally found those which had strong female leadership[5] generate a return on equity of 10.1% p.a. verses 7.4% p.a. for those who don’t.

Alarmingly, an ABS Gender Equality Report [6]shows that the current pay gap between men and women in Australia is 17.9% and if we continue at the current rate of progress it will be 2096 before pay equality is achieved.

Enlightened companies realise men and women are needed in leadership roles at every organisation level as both are essential contributors to building the constructive cultures necessary to underpin sustainable performance. Therefore despite the challenges that remain we cannot stop doing all we can to drive towards achieving gender equity.


Viventé Australia enables leaders and managers to create the conditions that allow their people to do their best work every day thus creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its outcomes





[5] The research designated a company as having strong female leadership if the company’s board had three or more women, if its percentage of women on the board is above its country average, or if it has a female CEO and at least one woman on the board.