AUSTCHAM INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY THE GREAT DEBATE - 2 MARCH, 2017

 

From left to right: Fiona Nott, John Wood, Angelina Kwok, Karen See, Kerry-Anne Walsh, Gautam Dev, Drew Waters

Trumped! Women’s Progress has reached its peak

In recognition of International Women’s day, I was invited to the AustCham’s Great Debate in Hong Kong on 2 March to sit on an esteemed panel to debate the topic: Trumped! Women’s progress has reached its peak”. Sharing the limelight with Gautam Dev, Regional Director, Human Resources - Organisational Capability at Prudential Corporation Asia; Kerry-Anne Walsh, founder of KA Communications; and on my team, John Wood, Founder of Room-to-Read.

John and I were placed on the side against the motion – providing us with an opportunity to outline key points to reinforce the fact that we need to do more to support women in leadership – that we had not reached our peak!

A spirited, animated, and raucaus debate enabled by the very capable Angelina Kwok, Managing Director, Head of Regulatory Compliance of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd, and a predominantly Australian audience-- John and I won the popular vote however lost the debate as Kerry-Anne and Gautam moved the dial slightly to win (sound familiar?).

Inspired by the fact that there is indeed an audience that believes Trump has lead to women either stagnating or in a trough, I wanted to share my point-of-view reminding all of us that we cannot stand still.

Below is only my argument, however I still think worth sharing:

“Lets start with breaking down the statement to ensure the audience is clear on what we are debating. John and I are stating, Women’s Progress has NOT reached its peak.

Using the Merriam Webster dictionary lets define the words:

Trumped!: We assume this refers to President Trump and not the word ‘trumped’ – when a card wins over any other suit OR it could be defined as a decisive overriding factor. For the context of this debate – we presume it is a reference to President Trump as well as the verb – both of which infer that women have reached as far as they can go.

Progress: a forward or onward movement OR gradual betterment.

Peak: a sharp or pointed end OR summit OR top OR pinnacle.

So… John and I are here to prove the point - we have not been trumped! We believe we have achieved significant progress, BUT we have NOT peaked – and we are nowhere near it.

There is so much research and data to support our argument, however for today’s debate I have chosen to focus on three key areas:

  1. The obvious!
  2. Women in Senior Management
  3. Pay Parity

To start with the obvious… if women’s progress had reached its peak, we would not be sitting in this room right now representing the Women in Business Network at AustCham for International Women’s Day.

If women’s progress had reached it’s peak, we would not need the 30% Club, associations like Women on Boards or NGOs like The Women’s Foundation. The United Nations would also not have Gender Equality as the fifth sustainable development goal.

We would not have had the The Washington March, which drew at least 500,000 people, and worldwide participation has been estimated at five million with 168 marches in 81 countries.

We have had progress but we have NOT hit our peak.

But, when we say this what does it mean? Where is the peak? Is peak equality when we hit parity? Or does peak mean when The Women’s Foundation changes its name to the Men’s Foundation?

For this debate, we would be happy with 50/50. Or at least ensuring all of us are given the same opportunities and not bound by barriers – in our eyes it’s not just equality – it’s quality – living in a world that the best, and most experienced person gets the job. Not because he is male.

Women have had progress but we have NOT hit our peak.

FACT: Progress, particularly when you think over the last fifty years, has been phenomenal. Quotas and policies have helped to prop up participation rates and the amount of working women.

Only a generation ago women relied on husbands to provide for them but now…

Women in Britain hold down half the jobs.

Women own over 40% of China’s private businesses.

In 1970, women in the US contributed about 6% of the family income. Now it is 42%

This is progress.

But…

Currently only 37.4% of managers in Australia are women. In Canada the number is 31.8%.

In India women hold 16% of senior roles. In Japan this number is as low as 7%. Closer to home, China has 8% on boards, and Hong Kong is a little more encouraging claiming 11.1% of women on the Hang Seng.

Globally, the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender gap claims it will take 170 years to get to global gender parity – the year will be 2187 when businesses and governments will be led equally by men and women.

Our grand children and our grand children’s children should not have to wait this long.

As alarming as these numbers are, we have progress. But we have definitely not reached our peak.

FACT: Women make less money than a man for doing the same work. Women make less as a CEO, as an athlete, as an actress, as a doctor.

In fact, the Wall Street Journal has this amazing website that allows you to type in your profession and see how much a woman earns compared to a man. The site claims women earn less than men in 439 of 446 major U.S. occupations.

  • Women working as physicians and surgeons earn 64% of their male counterparts on average.
  • Women working as insurance sales agents earn 65% of their male counterparts on average.
  • Women working as accountants and auditors earn 73% of their male counterparts on average.

If we average this out to being 30% less than men, this means that women should stop working on 22nd September because effectively the rest of the year they are working for free. In Australia, a women working in insurance should stop work as early as August 17.

We have had significant progress– after all women didn’t even exist in some of these professions 70 years ago – but if we are fighting for parity in terms of presence in the board room or for pay– then we have NOT reached our peak.”

We closed with the following:

The trend lines say it all… we are definitely progressing and we should celebrate the gains we have made over the years.

More women are being educated than ever before.

More women in heads of state.

More women in management roles across the corporate pipeline.

More board seats go to women every year – and the trend is to promote more women in senior roles.

It is not only politically correct to have women in leadership it also makes good business sense as well.

We have had great gains and significant progress, but let’s not rest.

Warren Buffett quote: “in the past, we were only using half of our talent. Think about what would happen if we used all the talent for 100% of the time. It’s like having one hand behind your back”.

It’s time to grab the opportunities with both hands.