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96% of young female leaders believe gender holds women back

August 6, 2015
Diversity & Inclusion
Gen Y female leaders are alive to gender-based discrimination. 96% of female leaders aged between 18 and 34 believe gender is a barrier to women staying in the workforce. Ninety-six percent!
 
It’s disconcerting, certainly, but is it surprising?
 
“I was a bit surprised at the number but it clearly evidences that we need to address this issue,” Westpac’s Director of Women’s Markets Ainslie van Onselen says on the findings in the Westpac Women of Influence Report. “It means businesses around Australia need to put mechanisms in place to counter these perceptions.”
 
Believing gender is an impediment to women at work is a perception that 96% of young leaders surveyed hold, but it’s rooted in reality. As things stand, being female in Australia does pose a barrier to progression and participation in the workforce. This is evidenced by the proportion of women in senior leadership roles, the pay gap, the number of women who engage in part-time work and the discrimination women face. 
 
Interestingly, what wasn’t merely a perception for 58% of the young female leaders surveyed was age based discrimination. Forty-one % were paid less, 32% weren’t offered the same training or development opportunities as fellow employees and 27% missed out on a pay rise.
 
“The report shows that Australian women feel they not only have to combat the gender divide but also ageism at multiple points in their careers,” van Onselen told Women’s Agenda.  “It is critical that businesses address this to ensure a pipeline of female talent to transition into senior leadership positions.”
 
There is no single ‘silver bullet’ for tackling this issue, rather van Onselen says it requires a comprehensive set of strategies and actions.  Hard targets not just for senior management but for graduates, for shortlist and for talent management programs. Initiatives that foster greater facilitation and support for diversity are also critical.
 
“Businesses that see the advantage of diversifying their workforce create a more agile and robust culture from which they can profit. Key to this is showcasing and celebrating the breadth of female talent across all generations, which encourage women to take hold of leadership positions, whatever age they are,” van Onselen says.
 
It is also part of creating a self-fulfilling positive cycle. 
 
“Increasing the visibility of women’s leadership in Australia is critical to allow other women to envisage pathways to reach their own full potential. This will ultimately shift the dial towards a more diverse and inclusive society.”
 
By Georgina Dent
 

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