HOW WE ACHIEVE THE GENDER TIPPING POINT

As long as men continue to make key business decisions at football games, on the golf course or even in the men’s room, Avril Henry has her work cut out trying to redress workplace gender discrimination.

gender-equality-feature-300x177 HOW WE ACHIEVE THE GENDER TIPPING POINTWhen Avril Henry FCPA selected subjects for her final two years of high school in the early 1970s, she was called to the principals office for a dressing-down. You don’t know your place.

Henry certainly knows her place today, and it is in helping organisations achieve the very thing that her former principal could not accept: gender equality.

As long as men continue to make key business decisions at football games, on the golf course or even in the men’s room, Avril Henry has her work cut out trying to redress workplace gender discrimination.

When Avril Henry FCPA selected subjects for her final two years of high school in the early 1970s, she was called to the principal’s office for a dressing-down. Maths and economics? What was she thinking? Henry told him of her plans to study accounting and economics at the University of Cape Town.

His response was a mix of incredulity and contempt: “That’s the problem with girls like you,” he said. “You don’t know your place.”

Henry certainly knows her place today, and it is in helping organisations achieve the very thing that her former principal could not accept: gender equality. The managing director of Sydney-based consultants Avril Henry and Associates, Henry is a passionate advocate of gender, generational and cultural diversity in the workplace.

Even before forming her own business in 2003, she helped change the game for Australian women in the workplace. While in a senior finance role at Westpac, Henry developed a successful business plan for six weeks’ paid maternity leave. In 1995, the bank became the first private sector organisation in Australia to introduce the entitlement.

Henry acknowledges that attitudes towards women in the workplace have changed for the better and diversity is now a notable topic of boardroom conversations, but she believes we have not come far enough.

“I can tell you one thing, there are plenty of people, including those who profess to be champions of women in the workplace, who do a lot of talking and not a lot of doing,” she says.

Henry’s new book, Leadership Revelations III How We Achieve the Gender Tipping Point, brings together the workplace experiences of 91 women in leadership roles from 10 countries to examine how we convert the rhetoric into results. Experiences of gender discrimination are a key feature of the book. Wendy McCarthy, businesswoman, company director and co-founder of the Women’s Electoral Lobby in New South Wales, tells of being overlooked for a job because she didn’t go to the pub on Friday nights. Kayla Le Cornu, head of operations at GrainCorp, recalls attending an industry awards night and being asked why she wasn’t at home looking after her children.

Former Queensland premier, Anna Bligh, now the chief executive of YWCA NSW, recounts the media frenzy about the red shoes she wore while delivering a A$40 billion state budget.

“People will always be curious about their leaders and how they look, and I don’t mind it; however, it is not said about men,” she notes.

Henry’s book also explores myths about women in the workplace. Joan Wei, managing director of Yuanlong Investment in China, cites the curious belief there that women “have longer hair but less knowledge”. Henry outlines a way we can achieve the gender tipping point where equality represents business as usual.

“When people say things for women are getting better, I say yes they are; however the pace of change is not fast enough,” says Henry.

Read the full article by Susan Muldowney in the October issue of INTHEBLACK

Author: Media Source

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