I want the world to be more equal. I don’t want men to feel obliged to prove their masculinity, and I don’t want women to feel obliged to lead like men. I want all of us to achieve success by being ourselves Kasia Gospos
As the founder of Leaders in Heels, I’ve attended many events focusing on gender equality. While I found them encouraging, there is one particular incident that called my attention to the fundamental problem with these events.
I was at a gender equality event run by the Australian Human Rights Commission. The speaker, the chairman of Origin Energy, shared a very inspiring story that he said should be heard by every man in Australia. During the Q&A, however, one woman stood up and asked, “But where are all the men?”
I looked around, and the only man I could see in the room was a security guard. She was right. Even if the story inspired steps toward gender equality, it wouldn’t make a difference if it didn’t reach its target audience—men.
Let me give you some figures. Only three percent of Australian CEOs are women. Women hold less than ten percent of senior positions in almost every sector. And yet, it has been proven that company culture, business performance and financial results are consistently better when a business’s leadership has an equal split of men and women.
Because of this skew toward men, they hold the majority of power when it comes to hiring decisions, and also creating a culture where women are encouraged to grow as leaders. So it is imperative that men not only engage in the gender discussion, but become part of the solution.
Although we have many incredible, passionate women driving the change toward gender equality, we also need the support of men to reach that ultimate goal. We need men to be involved and engaged. And I wanted to be the person to breach that barrier.Kasia Gospos
50|50 Future Leaders movement
To achieve this, I created the 50|50 Future Leaders movement. The aim was to encourage both women and men to become the change agents in their organisation and lead the drive for greater gender diversity.
The challenge in planning the event was ensuring an even balance of male and female attendees.
I structured the panel to include men who are well-known as champions of change and ensured marketing material was gender-inclusive. I also partnered with organizations from male-dominated industries.
The event was held on 2 September, 2014. The highlight was a panel discussion about driving gender diversity with panelists Andrew Stevens (Managing Director of IBM), Gordon Cairns (Non-executive Director of Origin Energy and David Jones), Diana Ryall (former Managing Director of Apple), Kate Burleigh (Managing Director of Intel). and Cassandra Kelly (joint CEO of Pottinger). It was chaired by Elizabeth Broderick, the sex discrimination commissioner.
As the individuals leading the shift towards gender balance in their respective organisations, they provided thought-provoking and challenging insights.
We are where we are today because of women’s activism, but it’s not enough now – we need men stepping up beside women to see where we can achieve gender balance.
Elizabeth Broderick, Sex Discrimination Commissioner
Approximately 200 men and women attended the event. We managed to achieve a 26-74 male-to-female split. While not yet at the ideal 50-50 split, it was a positive first step in encouraging more men to get involved in the push for gender equality. I hope to run more events in the future, with the aim of hitting that 50% mark for male attendance!
Watch the event highlights’ video.
If we truly want change to occur, we need to engage men in the discussion
Together, we can bring gender equality to the workplace.