Women need sponsors

Recently, a political milestone was reached in federal parliament. As the speaker, Bronwyn Bishop remarked “The House of Representatives might have made a little bit of history.” For the first time, four key positions in the chamber were occupied by women*.

So why is this so unusual that it is worthy of a mention in Hansard?

Although women make up 48.5 percent of the workforce in Australia, their presence in senior management, including the ‘senior management’ of government is in no way proportional. The latest findings of the WGEA show that men fill 76.24 percent of directorships, 88.12 percent of board chairmanships and 83 percent of chief executive positions with women comprising less than 30 percent of CEOs’ direct reports.

Women need sponsors. Not because they are incapable of attaining and holding senior positions, but because this is a powerful way of redressing the balance and without change, the pipeline will continue to be dominated by men.

In the past, women have often been over mentored, but under sponsored. Sponsorship is focused on advancement. It involves someone, appropriately placed in the organisation with significant influence, advocating for and accountable for the career advancement of an individual. It is not cronyism – it is making sure women are in the ‘hot jobs’ so they can excel and be noticed.

Gender bias stands in the way of women’s advancement. Historically there has been a range of assumptions, myths and biases that limit women’s careers. These biases can slow a woman’s advancement at any stage of her career. Deep felt, they are difficult to change, but change must happen if we are to have gender equity in the workplace.

At KPMG we work hard to identify our high potential females both in the pipeline and at the partner level but we will never achieve balanced gender if we don’t nurture and develop these talented women. Last year, we set gender targets for our partnership and senior management as part of our strategy to redress gender balance and we are already benefitting by a rise in the number of women in these roles, but more importantly a significant increase in the number of women in the leadership pipeline.

As a member of the Male Champions of Change group and as a recent signatory to the Women’s Empowerment Principles I have a responsibility to set an example for other men in management positions. Which is why, at a recent event to announce KPMG Australia’s signing of the Women’s Empowerment Principles I invited all CEO participants to sponsor a woman rather than a ‘mate’ to attend.

The Women’s Empowerment Principles are subtitled ‘equality means business’. I can only add to this by saying that to me, equality is good business.

* Deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop was filling in for Prime Minister Tony Abbott while Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek was acting for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten plus the Deputy Clerk of the House of Representatives Claressa Surtees and Mrs Bishop, Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Speaker’s chair.

Feature Image ©: auremar / 123RF Stock Photo
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4 thoughts on “Women need sponsors

  1. Wonderful to see KPMG sign on to the Women’s Empowerment Principles, and a great message about the importance of sponsorship. The next step is making sure sponsorship of high-potential women is something that takes place at every level of the organisation and that sponsors are recognised and rewarded for their role in plugging the holes in the talent pipeline.

  2. Very well written! Being a woman working @KPMG CFOA, Its fantastic to read and encouraging to see that efforts are being put it to advance talent where appropriate. I am proud to work with a Firm that has leadership focussed on different and valuable things! I believe this will truly lead to a long and sustainable success for the Firm!

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