Image: Diane Smith-Gander of Chief Executive Women

Why 2015 was Key for Gender Equality

2015 was a “watershed year” for women, believes Diane Smith-Gander, president of the Australian Chief Executive Women (CEW), an association of over 300 business women. In an interview with the daily paper Australian, Smith-Gander said that “things have definitely changed”.

In Smith-Gander’s opinion there is more awareness of the need to have gender equity. “Corporations have gone past the idea of saying ‘we need more women’ to the idea that, like having good safety standards, it is the right thing to do to have more inclusion and true equality.”

“People are realising that it makes good business sense to try to keep their talented women. They want to retain them through the employment cycle. They don’t want to throw away their recruitment and training costs, their investment in learning and development of an employee just to have them be paid out and leave.” The president said that this new tendency that she observed particularly in her native country Australia, brought benefits in terms of costs but also in terms of better decision-making that diversity in general brings to the workplace. Ms Smith-Gander, who is also chairwoman of services company Broadspectrum, said that she found the new trend for companies was to be regarded as “marked down” if they were not seen to be promoting talented women.

2015 also shaped to be the year when the idea of having quotas for the appointment of women to boards and in corporate roles had become more acceptable, she said.
“There are more places around the world which have recognised that quotas aren’t draconian, but they are to be deployed as a thoughtful weapon. We haven’t quite got there, but we (Australia) are heading in that direction.” Speaking about Australia, Smith-Gander said there had been a big improvement in the representation of women on company boards in recent years. “There are only a few laggards now. You are seeing some companies who are making a big push to have more women on their boards such as Ramsay Health Care, which appointed two women to its board last year.”

Source: The Australian