Mallesons' latest report Directions 2012 is based on a 2011 survey detailing the views of company directors on current challenges and issues, including gender diversity.
More than gender equality on boards, the report noted that the key focus should be on achieving "an appropriate level of judgement and mixture of skill sets across board members". It also highlights the concerns that if boards focus too much on gender equality, it will do so at the expense of other talents.
In a perfect world, our boards would be populated according to talents and minds, not gender or race. While this is acknowledged as an important issue, current actions are not always reflective of the thinking displayed in this survey. A lot work still needs to be done before equality on boards is no longer an issue.
This is important - not because it's the right thing to do morally, or even a nice idea.
Australian companies need a diversity of perspectives on their boards - it is incumbent of our directors to resist the comfort of the status quo and to open their minds and their boardrooms to new voices. Especially when those voices are reflective of a wider public - and doubly more so now that women are having sigificant impact in both the financial decisions of their families and women owned businesses are the fastest growing business segment.
The value of a board is in the quality of the thinking and skills from a range of experiences made available to a company. Otherwise you risk having a board of bodies represented by one mind. And that can be dangerous - to the organisation, the community and society in general.
On the other hand, women, Indigenous and other disadvantaged leaders need to step up their game and promote themselves more. While it may be unfair that we still need to be 10 times more visible and 10 times better just to keep pace, that's what it takes to be a pioneer. In many ways, we still are.
Most importantly, you need to believe in yourself. Find your voice and speak it to the world. Each of you have something to say that is important and of great value.
You need advocates and mentors to assist you in building your leadership brand, to get out there and increase your visibility in the marketplace. In many ways, it's just like building your own business. You need to generate your plan - do the critical thinking - then work your plan, adjust where you need and find your support anywhere you can.
It takes a lot of work upfront, but ultimately pays off if you get your thinking right at the beginning, take action and learn as you go.
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