Think about these fairly hefty statistics: Women are the spending power of over two-thirds of Australian households. They represent just under half the global population and are the fastest growing group of consumers worldwide. They not only make up a significant portion of the workforce, they are rapidly becoming the fastest-growing entrepreneurial group in both the first and third worlds.

For the first time in history, an increasing number of women are becoming independently (and openly) wealthy. We are seeing a significant shift in financial and personal power and this is starting to reshape industries, organisations, communication methods and consumer demands as businesses attempt to remain relevant with this group of decision-makers.

Despite this, large corporates still fail to have an equal representation of male and female leaders:

  • Within the ASX200, 179 companies have a dual male leadership team, with men in both the CEO and Chair positions.
  • Of the 40 CEO/Chair positions available within the ASX20 a woman holds only one of them.
  • The gender pay gap in Australia is currently sitting at 18.2 percent down from an average of 85.1 cents ten years ago.
  • Australia has one of the lowest rates of educated women participating in the workplace despite having one of the highest rates of tertiary education women.
  • Women continue to remain the world’s greatest underdeveloped and underused source of labour with nearly one half of working-age women not currently active in the formal global economy.

In 2014, the Gender Diversity Council of Australia’s Lisa Annesse said, “If we did nothing at the moment, with current practices that are in place, it would take about 177 years to reach gender equity in out workplaces.”

Embrace gender diversity

As leaders who are taking teams into an uncertain future it makes economic sense to engage and collaborate commercially with women to gain balanced insight and leadership as part of strategic decision making for the future. Improved diversity, and in turn improved collaboration, makes sense on so many levels, creating positive impact on:

  • Corporate culture
  • The cost of employee recruitment
  • Society and family dynamics
  • Corporate profitably
  • Improving business insight and innovation
  • The viable talent pool

Engage with sponsorship

Those who are fortunate enough to be in a position of influence now – both men and women – have to start being far more active in terms of sponsorship and driving change. Otherwise? We will lose not only half of our brilliant minds, but also the yin to the male corporate yang.

Active sponsorship is needed to create a strong leadership pipeline for women coming through the ranks. This is still not readily adopted by large corporates, with a few notable exceptions, and when it is, studies have shown sponsors still stick to tried and true methods. We must support each other wholeheartedly through networks, both personal and professional. We must sponsor those younger women coming through the ranks to build a gender diverse leadership pipeline for the future.

Together we can achieve more

It is no longer enough to simply talk about equity in the workplace. Change can only come when men and women take the lead, stand together and fight actively for workplace equity and gender diversity – in terms of pay, flexibility, leadership positioning, being able to serve within any role in any industry and to have the option to be sponsored to get these positions. Equality is not just a word that should be thrown around on social media, in company annual reports and media releases or to position a company to graduates who are employment opportunity shopping. It rests on an entire organisation’s shoulders to promote women as leaders based on their skillsets, natural abilities, their desire to lead and the values of a meritocracy.

The barriers between genders, generations, cultures, inventors, investors, change makers, visionaries and those that make it happen — all have to be broken down because difference of opinion, diversity of thought and expression is the new competitive advantage.

It’s a new game. It’s a new space, in which we can work together and embrace.