One sleep to go…. to the Level the Playing Field Symposium

LTPF final smallWith just one sleep to go, 90 people are getting ready to attend tomorrow’s Level the Playing Field Symposium, to be facilitated by Maxime Fern, Jill Hufnagel, Marty Linsky, Robbie Macpherson, Phil Ralph and Diana Renner.

This is a real opportunity for each and everyone of us, attending or not, to exercise leadership ourselves and ask “What is one thing I could be doing to take action on gender leadership in my role? In my organisation?” Until each and everyone of us, male and female alike begins to take action, we cannot expect things to change.

Increase productivity: increase the participation of women in the workforce

One way of increasing productivity in Australia’s economy is to increase the labour force participation rates of women. Interestingly, due to the cultural and economic similarities with Australia, this article discusses Canada’s experience with female workforce participation.

Read more…

Julia Gillard: The gender revolution has failed

Julia Gillard

Julia Gillard gave the keynote address at a Victorian Women’s Trust event in Melbourne this last weekend. She said the nation has nothing to fear about having a genuine conversation about achieving true gender equality and urged young female aspiring leaders to not be deterred by her experience.

“Equality and merit go hand in hand. If you believe as I believe that merit is equally distributed across the population, then if an organisation does not have roughly 50% men and 50% women, then women of merit are being overlooked.”

Read more

Watch the video stream

The Status Quo is Holding Australia Back: Symposium challenges business to change gears on Gender Diversity in Leadership

LTPF final smallAustralian boardrooms and C-suites are talking more about promoting gender balance in the top ranks but are still doing very little.

“The rhetoric for change is getting louder but it’s not translating into effective action: the wheels are spinning” says Frances Feenstra.

This challenge to change gears from talk to action will be a key focus in a new Symposium designed to provide innovative ways to deal with the urgent – but seemingly intractable problem – of gender balance in leadership.

Level the Playing Field is a ground breaking Symposium organised by The 100% Project in partnership with Leadership Victoria and will be facilitated by world-renowned thought leader Marty Linsky.

Frances Feenstra, Chair of The 100% Project, said, “The rhetoric appears to be louder from organisations which cling to their old ways”.

Nothing changes – vs.- Real change

“Many leaders typically end up appointing within their own networks. “So, of course, nothing changes.”

Frances noted: “In the past decade there has been almost no progress in the participation of women in senior corporate roles. Less than 10% of senior executives are women, majority of ASX 500 companies have no women board members, women CEO’s are rare and the gender pay gap remains unchanged.”

“The lack of gender balanced leadership is an active barrier to Australia’s economic performance and our collective bottom line”.

“We’ve had enough talking. We need to point to real change that’s taking place. Some Australian companies are taking the lead, like Australia Post and Qantas, but we need more consistent action across the board. Australia Post is a great example of an organisation taking action. In the space of just 3 years under their Future Ready strategy, Post has quietly increased its proportion of females in executive positions from 21% to 34%, and women on the executive committee from 11% to 46%. It has done this through a combination of proactive appointments and talent acquisitions, supported by female talent programs across four levels of management. We need more CEOs and Board Members to think beyond the current status quo, like Australia Post” Frances concluded.

The symposium will be held on 14 November in Melbourne. Tickets are still available.

Hello Activists? Where are you? We need you!

LTPF final smallSymposium calls for support from activists in Gender Diversity in Leadership

“We need to hear from you and we need your support. Please participate!”

This call for support comes from the organisers of a new Symposium designed to provide innovative ways to deal with the urgent – but seemingly intractable problem – of gender balance in leadership.

Level the Playing Field is a ground breaking Symposium organised by The 100% Project in partnership with Leadership Victoria and sponsored by Australia Post and Qantas, will be facilitated by world-renowned thought leader Marty Linsky.

Ms Frances Feenstra, Chair of The 100% Project, said, “The Symposium needs more participants who are taking action in this area. We need to hear their stories and learn from the challenges they’ve faced. Many organisations have moved on from rhetoric and are taking action. Unfortunately the majority are still stuck in ‘talk mode.’

“We’re hearing the talk but not benefiting from seeing the action.

“We need to learn from more Australian case studies where action is underway. Good or bad – we can learn from it,” Frances said.

More about the Symposium  TICKETS ARE STILL AVAILABLE!

What do the new generation of males want from their jobs?

Younger professional men have different understandings of ambition and different ideals of fatherhood. If they’re unable to change their organizations to allow time for family life, they will leave. Today, managing diversity is not limited to women, Diversity means managing people, male and female, of all sexual identities and every race and nationality.

This blog post from the Harvard Business Review makes some interesting points about males and females in our ever-changing world.

Much of this was identified in the research undertaken by The 100% Project earlier in 2011 and 2013: “What Men Want and Why It Matters to Women”  “Men at Work: What they want and how unconscious bias stops them getting it

Fundamental to bringing about any real movement towards gender balanced leadership, is taking into account what men want as much as what women want.

Get involved in this debate at the Level the Playing Field Symposium!

A real crack in the glass ceiling

The issue of women climbing the ladder in business is big news if today’s Australian Financial Review (AFR) is anything to go by. Today’s AFR contains several major stories centred on an influential group of Australian CEOs calling for change including:

  • Qantas
  • CBA
  • Telstra
  • ANZ
  • McKinsey
  • Goldman Sachs
  • ASX
  • Deloittes
  •  The Army
  •  Dep’t of Prime Minister & Cabinet
  •  Woolworths
  •  IBM

An influential group of chief executives from Australia’s biggest companies, known as the Male Champions of Change, are putting pressure on their suppliers to commit to gender diversity. This group includes Alan Joyce, Qantas Chief Executive, who talks about starting early and trying to encourage school age girls to consider engineering as a career. There’s a notable quote in the Chanticleer column on the back page which is timely and relevant to Level the Playing Field Symposium. Quoting CBA CEO Mike Smith who notes the need to accelerate the advancement of women in leadership and for: ” … a practical approach. It’s action-oriented. It’s not just more words. Action is the only thing that will drive change.READ MORE NB. Unless you are a subscriber (there’s a Fairfax paywall) –  grab a hard copy of today’s Financial Review. There are several other stories on this topical issue. Learn more about taking action by attending the Level the Playing Field Symposium

Qantas logo

Qantas are sponsors of the Level the Playing Field Symposium: Turning Gender Leadership Rhetoric into more Effective Action.

Level the Playing Field Symposium Scholarships EXTENDED!

LTPF final smallThe 100% Project and Leadership Victoria still have a small number of scholarship places for the Level the Playing Field Symposium to be held on Thursday 14th November at the Hilton on the Park, East Melbourne. Applications will now close Friday 8th November at 12 noon. Don’t miss out on this opportunity!

Who can apply?

  • Individuals from organisations that are unable to fund the full cost of the Symposium – cost to the applicant will be $990 rather than $1,980 inc GST
  • Individuals from smaller or not-for-profit organisations – cost to the applicant will be $550 rather than $1,980 inc GST
  • The next generation of leaders with a particular interest in this topic – cost to the applicant will be $190 rather than $1,980 inc GST

Apply now!

Ambitious new gender diversity targets from the Business Council of Australia

Business Council of Australia logoThe Business Council of Australia have set a 10 year target of women holding 50 per cent of senior jobs and board seats. Their report Increasing the Number of Women in Senior Positions, includes exhaustive checklists and suggest that boards and chief executives redesign corporate culture, job descriptions, remuneration and interview, assessment, and performance processes to remove “unconscious biases” against women. Will these suggestions be enough? How can adaptive leadership help boards and chief executives meet these targets?

Unsettling the Dust: the Aspirations of the 2013 Level the Playing Field Symposium

By Jill Hufnagel

Jill Hufnagel - one of the co-facilitators of The 'Level The Playing Feild'  Symposium

Jill Hufnagel – one of the co-facilitators of The ‘Level The Playing Field’ Symposium

On my way into work this morning, I heard a lyric from Dala’s “Good as Gold” that struck me as a provocative way of thinking about the challenges of making progress on the gender gap: “I won’t let the dust fall on my life.”  I thought about where dust falls: on fixed surfaces, in the crevices we miss, over the places we never much get to.  There’s something to the phrase “dust settles” that suggests complacency: that act of accepting less than we know we might deserve, aspire to, long for.  And with that settling comes a set of blinders.

Last week my nine-year-old son said to me, with wide-eyed wonder, “Can you even believe we’ve never, ever had a female president?”  Before I had a chance to respond, he continued: “That’s just so surprising!”  His sheer incredulity at what for me feels like par for the course was telling—a demoralizing reminder that I’ve got my own trusty set of blinders. What I hear both in my son’s disbelief and in Dala’s lyrics is also an implicit commitment to growth rather than eyes-averted settling.

If the gap between my son’s astonishment and my own isn’t enough to shift my vision, I needn’t look far to find further unsettling evidence.  My childhood friend who has worked for 20+ years in the U.S. Senate earns $76K to her male counterpart’s $116K in the same role. The comment from a veteran press corps reporter regarding Hillary Clinton: “The story is never what she says, as much as we want it to be. The story is always how she looked when she said it;”[i]

The stark reality that in a 2012 study, female raters making hiring decisions “judge [the] mothers to be less likeable than [the] fathers and childless women.”[ii]  These are windows into the harsh, complex realities women face both individually and collectively.  The pressures are within (in our interior monologues) and without (across the systems we traverse).

As I consider the data at the core of the gender gap—whether in terms of the not quite 77 cents to the male dollar American women earn;[iii] women’s paltry corporate foothold at a current total of 21 women CEOs in Fortune 500 companies;[iv] or the disparities in the male/female contribution to the unpaid work of the home front—I can’t help but wonder where we’ve let dust settle. I mean that “we” both individually and collectively, personally and professionally.  Because the dust around this gap is in both in our systems, policies, and organizations and in our own minds, behaviors, and choices.

In her controversial Lean In, Facebook exec Sheryl Sandberg encourages women to stand up, stand out, and lean in professionally[v].  Many suggest that’s easy for her to say.  Well-heeled women with nannies and sky-high incomes have freedoms few of the rest of us enjoy.  Agreed.  That she tends to lean into individual women rather than exerting similar systemic pressure may say something about her own blinders.  And yet, if and when we dismiss Sandberg and company’s voices, perhaps we are also undermining the currents of the very conversations we will have to have to make progress on these thicket issues. Of all the ways Sandberg might have invested the currency of her influence, she chose to make it personal. And gendered.  Whether or not we share Sandberg’s angle, she has been tremendously successful at energizing a deeply relevant conversation. Our part in advancing this conversation includes learning to talk across factions.

Which brings me to the upcoming The 100% Project/Leadership Victoria’s ‘Level the Playing Field’ Symposium in November.  From the outset, symposium organizers asked a central question regarding the dilemma of making tangible progress on narrowing the gender gap: of all that we could do, what should we do? They landed on a gathering: of voices, perspectives, insights, ideas.  As adaptive leadership posits, both the problem and the solution are in the people.  We are those people, both individually and in the ways we each represent the countless incarnations of ourselves outside the space we will share.  What we represent in the systems we’ve come from will manifest in the system we create in our time together.  In short: the pressure is on.

In many ways, our goal will be the counter-cultural work of unsettling – unsettling our own beliefs and biases; unsettling the policies and systems that keep us stuck; unsettling our default to surface engagement with one another, all in service to making progress on something we don’t yet know how to move.  We will have to come willing to investigate the crevices to which we’ve turned a blind eye, willing to move beyond the surfaces of staid ways of thinking, willing to “get to” different hypotheses, and willing to test those hypotheses with experiments that may not succeed.

We must both change the systems we inhabit and increase our ability to navigate those systems.  This is not either/or work. This is and work. To do one without the other is not only naïve but ultimately continues to allow dust to accumulate.

Working beyond our own authority means embracing our agency, rather than deferring to hierarchy.  Working across factions means expanding our search for allies and letting go of some of what we’ve previously held dear and engaging with people whose ideas aren’t simply echoes of our own. 

Working in service to a shared vision means having the capacity to hold steady when things get uncomfortable and the discipline to connect to our shared, deeper purpose. We will have to move from benign interpretations of the stark, sluggish data to conflictual interpretations of those numbers.  We will have to acknowledge the very real threats that come with gender equity and in turn all that our current reality serves.  And throughout: there will be losses. There always are. The difference? These losses will be in service to that greater good, rather than to self-preservation.

The idea is that we will leave this day together activated.  We will leave with allies, and with concrete experiments to take back to our organizations and to live into ourselves. While this symposium will ask much of us, the alternative asks more: to continue to allow dust to settle on this thicket issue. The temptations NOT to engage in what feels like monumental work are many.  And yet, in the space we will share each of us is and represents so many reasons to persevere.

Last month, I attended a lecture by Stephanie Coontz, whose talk was part of a series commemorating the 50th anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique at the all-women’s university where I teach.  Coontz suggests that to upend the policies and beliefs that have kept us stuck, rather than inadvertently replicating those struggles in the very design of new policies, we have one model to consider.  Her call is to develop policies with the working woman in mind, policies that acknowledge that for us all to survive and thrive we must be supported in our ability to navigate the demands of work, home and community.  This tri-focal vision serves the good of all: men who would like to be more engaged in fatherhood; communities that need co-ed volunteers; women who seek higher echelon posts.  Coontz’s proposition acknowledges a factor key in making progress – we tend to mirror current culture in creating future policies, a tendency that reiterates gender imbalance from one generation to the next.  As Coontz suggests, “This model isn’t about reverse sexism but about reversing sexism.” [vi]

On both the front and back ends of the lecture, what I heard across the auditorium – from Coontz, from our university president, and from an undergrad in the audience – was that familiar rhetoric acknowledging “how far we’ve come.” Yes, we have.  I feel deep gratitude for those who’ve trampled down our path.  At the same time, I wonder about the impact of that rhetoric on our tendency to settle into that backward vista rather than to find a way to continue to trample on.  Finding that way forward will mean finding allies, designing experiments, working beyond our authority.  If there’s any truth to the belief that dust is made up primarily of dead skin cells, then we’ve all got a lot of skin in this game.

Jill is one of the co-facilitators at the upcoming Level the Playing Field Symposium on November 14.

Jill is Director of the Batten Leadership Institute at Hollins University, where she delivers adaptive leadership programming built on capacity development, productive ambiguity and sound strategy. By design, this model demands that participants grapple with the challenges that emerge in the room – challenges that mirror those throughout our organisations, communities and lives. Whether working with undergrads, consulting clients, or in one on one coaching, her focus remains: keeping one eye trained squarely on the collective work in the moment, and the other on encouraging acts of leadership.

Jill trained at both UVA Darden’s Graduate School of Business and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Jill holds a Ph.D. in English and Women’s Studies from the University of South Carolina and an M.A. and Ed.s in community counseling from James Madison University. Jill says that the biggest single perk of living in the Blue Ridge Mountains is hiking out of her front door and up the trails with her husband, daughter, twin boys and a pair of pups.

[i] Herminia Ibarra, Robin Ely, and Deborah Kolb, “Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers,” Harvard Business Review 91, no. 9 (2013): 2-8.

[ii]  “Women in the Workplace: A Research Roundup,” Harvard Business Review September 2013: 2-8.

[iii] National Committee on Pay Equity:

[iv] Patricia Sellers, “Fortune 500 Women CEOs Hit a Milestone” CNN Money: November 12, 2012.

[v] Sheryl Sandberg,  Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013).

[vi] Stephanie Koontz, Lecture: Feminist Mystique Lecture Series. Hollins University. September 24, 2013.