According to the Australian Board of Statistics, women make up just over 50% of the population and 46% of the workforce, but are still vastly under-represented when it comes to leadership roles in business and government. In 2012, the statistics concerning women in leadership roles reveal these facts:

  • Only 29% of Australian of Federal Parliamentarians and 7 out of 30 ministers are women.
  • Of the Australian Stock Exchange’s Top 200 companies, only 3% of the executive boards had a female chair, and 3.5% had a female Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Male Champions of Change (MCC) and Chief Executive Women (CEW) are two groups that believe in achieving greater gender diversity in public and private leadership roles. These two groups are working together to discover methods and practices that can change the status quo and increase the number of women in leadership positions.

What is The Leadership Shadow?

It Begins With Us – The Leadership Shadow,” is a report on the results of this collaboration. The Leadership Shadow has now become a model of a set of actions and behaviours that leaders in public and private organisations can follow to increase their own diversity and gender balance.

Regardless of the type of organisation, the words, actions, attitudes and behaviour of our leaders have an impact on those around them. This impact, or “shadow,” has the ability to influence the attitudes and behaviours of others, and also determines the focus of their group, which goals are achieved, and the steps that are taken to achieve goals.

What Are the Four Components of Your Leadership Shadow?

As part of increasing gender diversity and balance, it is necessary to understand the components that make up the impact, or shadow, of leadership, and how the clarity and reach of your leadership shadow can be shaped.

  1. What we say with our words and other forms of communication matters. It’s important for leaders to talk about gender balance, and connect their words with the organisation’s actual strategy and values. Ensuring that your message is visible both internally with your workforce and externally with suppliers, vendors and customers, and repeating your message often is critical to your success in achieving greater gender balance. Reinforce that this goal is important to you by providing regular updates about your organisation’s progress, and make a point to recognise and celebrate when progress is made.
  2. Our actions speak as loud, if not louder, than our words. In order to achieve greater gender balance, it’s important to ensure that your actions back up your words. Rewarding inclusiveness, working with your team to encourage cooperation with competing views and management styles and actually increasing the gender diversity throughout all levels of your organisation go a long way to show others that you will back your words with actions that show your words have meaning.
  3. Make gender diversity a top priority if you want others to view it as a serious goal. Most organisations have several goals that compete for importance and attention. If you are serious about increasing gender balance in your organisation, you must take steps to ensure that others know it is a true priority. Ensure that you are taking steps to identify and eliminate bias and increase flexibility in your workplace. Put in place hiring and training practices that will increase gender balance within your organisation. Directly engage your senior advisers and hold them accountable for the results are all ways you can signal that achieving gender balance is a key goal.
  4. Ensure that diversity, inclusiveness and gender balance are recognised and rewarded when setting targets, measuring results and creating opportunities for recognition. There is an old saying, “don’t reward bad behaviour,” this is especially true when it comes to increasing gender balance in the workplace. You can increase the impact of your leadership shadow by taking steps to ensure that you are rewarding others for the right behaviour. Periodically set targets for achieving greater gender balance, hold your people accountable, and ensure that gender balance is a key factor in their appraisals of performance. Make a point to publicly recognise and reward those who are successful in achieving gender balance targets.

By making the effort to ensure that all four components of your impact are on target with their message, you can shape the impact of your leadership and increase its’ reach to help guide your organisation to becoming more inclusive, diverse and well on its way to achieving gender balance. As gender balance increases in your organisation, you will find that your group now has access to a more diverse set of viewpoints and outlooks that will increase your organisation’s flexibility, creativity, innovation and strength.

The strength, depth and focus of the shadow that your leadership casts is entirely up to you – with so many benefits to be derived from greater gender balance in the workplace the only question that remains is what are you waiting for?

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