Diversity of Thought Blog

Goodbye and Farwell: A message fom The 100% Project Chair, Frances Feenstra

Dear Champions and Supporters of The 100% Project,

Today is both a sad as well as an exhilarating day for me. Let me explain. Sad because last night I stepped down as Chair of The 100% Project, an organisation I founded in July 2008 together with a small group of dedicated professional Australian women. We all had, and still have, a passion for increasing the number of women in senior roles and a desire to ensure that some of the barriers existing for women to attain seniority would be removed for future generations.
We believed in the Kofi Anan quote:

“Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting
the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development
and building good governance”.

From its inception, the vision of The 100% Project has been ‘To see 100% of Australia’s leadership talent, female and male, equally contributing to our social and economic future’, and our overarching aim is to create the conditions for change. Change that will allow more women to take up senior leadership positions in Australia, in order for us all to benefit.

No offence to the many very capable men out there, but it does seem ridiculous that in 2014 we still need to have the debate about the lack of women taking up senior roles in Australia. A modern, developed country like Australia should have many more women in senior roles in government, on boards, and in senior corporate roles. Today we have one woman in cabinet and only seven female CEOs in the ASX 200, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Surely that’s not good enough?

At The 100% Project we believe that women will only achieve their fair share of leadership roles in Australian business and society when men join the call for change. We are tackling some of the serious cultural issues that are affecting women’s progression into leadership roles and men’s changing needs and expectations in the workplace, and from the very first we have done this with men involved in both the organisation and the solutions.

Since 2008 we have achieved a lot and we are positioned as a catalyst for change through raising awareness of gender imbalance in leadership opportunities, conducting our own research and collating the research of others, educating business leaders, providing solutions for real and sustainable change and influencing workplace cultures.

In addition, we publish ‘Beyond the Spin’, a quarterly, issues based publication which is distributed to our champion network and consistently raises the debate on issues such as the gender pay gap, quotas, engaging men, global inequality, women in the board room, and other topics.
In 2014 we will build further on our success to date with the ‘Immunity to Change’ Master Class in June facilitated by Dr Lisa Lahey from Harvard University (tickets available from our website from 1 April).

I am proud of The 100% Project, what it has achieved to date, and what it will achieve in the future, and am therefore sad to say goodbye to my role in leading the organisation.
So why am I also exhilarated? Well, I am exhilarated because the organisation is set to achieve even more in the future, because it has a strong board, a great management team, fantastic volunteers, an ever growing number of champions, and unbelievable backing from a large number of sponsors and supporters.

The new Chair of The 100% Project is Robert Kenn, a highly capable executive, and a male. Having a male leading the board may seem like a retrograde step for an organisation that aims to create more leadership opportunities for women, however I see this as a step forward as we are role-modelling what we are asking others to do. Despite the majority of board members being women, the board has elected a man as chair. So come on Australia, even when the majority of your board members, cabinet members or executive team are men, look at the women around you and open the door! In addition, the fact that we have men at The 100% Project who believe this issue is so important for our country that they are willing to do whatever it takes to redress the imbalance, surely means that maybe we are maturing as a society and that these men are the harbingers of change. Let’s hope so.

Meanwhile, I urge you all to support the new chair the way you have supported me. And I say thank you to all board members, management, volunteers and supporters of The 100% Project. It has been a privilege to lead the organisation and it is also a privilege to now hand it over for its next phase of growth.

Warm regards,

Frances Feenstra