A recent study has found that 60% of Australian businessmen believe women have the same career opportunities as they do but are failing to make the most of what’s available to them.
The Australian Pulse of Women in Leadership Report, commissioned by Positive Leaders, surveyed over 1000 professionals and found Aussie men believe less women are making the move into leadership roles because “they have difficulty juggling work/life commitments, lack qualifications and are less ambitious”.
The gender breakdown of those surveyed was 49% men and 51% women aged between 18 and 64 years old.
Co-author of the study Megan Dalla-Camina says: “The survey highlights the disconnect between the male and female perceptions in the workplace… [and] The pressure of having to fit into traditional models of leadership.”
“There are a lot of pervasive myths in our culture – the ‘good mother’… the ‘ideal worker’… [and] what a good leader looks like – driven, dominant, aggressive, ambitious – traits that researchers define as masculine and what you need to get ahead,” she said, adding in the workplace feminine traits are often perceived as aggressive or not ambitious enough.
However the survey highlights that people with feminine traits such as openness, empathy, collaboration, flexibility and patience make better leaders.
“Ernst & Young economists estimate approaches like these that help employees to feel more motivated, supported and appreciated could be worth up to $305 billion annual in productivity gains for our economy,” Dalla-Camina said.
“It also showed that Australian employees could be up to 85% more productive leading to bottom line growth in our economy if their managers had more of a focus on reward, recognition and enhancing wellbeing” also outcomes of feminine traits.”
Gemma Munro, the managing director of Inkling Women, an Australian leadership and coaching organisation dedicated to inspiring female leaders at executive levels, agrees it is female leaders, or those with such feminine traits, that are the money makers.
“Women make better leaders. It’s been shown in a Harvard study where in 12 of 16 measures women made better leaders, and those qualities of openness, collaboration, of empathy and listening they lead to great long-term results. And that is what we need for our organisations.
“You look at the research all measures go up once you have a critical figure of 30% of women at the executive level so return on investment, return on equity, productivity and financial results all improve,” said Munro.
Despite some improvements and significant positive change though initiatives like the Male Champions of Change, the conversation around gender equality in the Australian workplace still fails to deliver results at the executive level.
Of ASX listed companies 40% of boards don’t include women, females only make up 3.5% of Australian CEOs and there is a significant gender pay gap.
“We have inherited a model of organisation that has its roots in masculinity and hierarchy and competition. It is a harder environment for women to negotiate, there are also some very clear unconscious bias and double standards show towards women,” Munro said.
She continues: “For instance if you get a CV with Daniel on the top and another CV which is exactly with same but with Danielle on the top, and you show them to two random sample groups, Daniel is shown to be significantly more promotable. Daniel is given a significantly higher nominal salary and he is seen as more assertive, where as Danielle is seen as more aggressive.”
But Dalla-Comina stressed it’s not about “to fix the women or stamp out bias in men” instead employees must identify the unique talents all people bring to the table.
“We need a new dialogue, people need a new level of permission to show up authentically, workplace structures and cultures need to change to embrace and value feminine leadership traits and styles as much as the masculine power structures, and we need to start talking about gender intelligence,” she said.
“Neither men nor women are thriving at work, so that should be a red flag to all employers about how they embed leadership practices, such as positive leadership, that helps people thrive, and which also has direct bottom line impact.”
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