Speaking at the Tax Institute’s Women in Tax National Congress 2017, leading commentator on women and the workforce, Catherine Fox, said the conversation around gender inequality needs to shift to the policy makers at firms, who were often men.
Citing the recent gender diversity report by the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) showing that there were only 25.4 per cent of female directors across the ASX 200 this year, Ms Fox said male leaders needed to lead any form of change.
“It's illogical to tell women that they're the architects of their own marginalisation when in fact they're not the ones who are often running things,” said Ms Fox.
“Women are not well represented in positions of leadership. At management level it is slowly improving but it is very sluggish, and we are not making the bulk of the decisions unfortunately.
“We have to understand that the best people to actually break up the boys club are the boys.”
Ms Fox said time has shown that focusing on ‘fixing’ women has “simply not added up”, and that a holistic approach was need.
“If we are going to change the dynamics in workplace, how can we do it if we're only addressing half the people in the workplace?,” asked Ms Fox.
“It's a bit like saying look we'll introduce a new occupational health and safety policy but we'll only tell half of you what it's about and we'll only ask half of you to modify or change your behaviour — it simply isn't going to work.”
Ms Fox, who is a member of the Australian Defence Force Gender Equality Advisory Board, said that any change had to come from the top down, even if that meant making it mandatory.
“I think it is most important that you have the most senior people around the table, so when our advisory board meets, we have every single chief of service, the secretary of department, the chief of the defence force and his deputy, there is no question that you have to have every senior person in the room and you actually just have to mandate that,” added Ms Fox.
“Sometimes you have to push it and once you get people properly listening and being engaged to do something concrete about it, I think you can actually get some traction.”
Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.