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Diversity - the dividends are there, says Westpac

24 October 2017

Increasing women in leadership roles to parity with men can boost corporate profitability by more than 2 percentage points on the back of improved teamwork, culture and engagement with stakeholders, a new report has found.

Deloitte Access Economics added that gender parity at “manager level” drove greater female participation in the labour force and could add at least $10.8 billion a year to the Australian economy, the bulk of the kick to gross domestic product coming from more flexible working policies.

“The relationship between these factors can be complex…but these estimates provide a clear indication that having more women in leadership is associated with better economic outcomes,” the report states. Economists have long argued that lifting female activity in the workforce could unlock significant potential growth, citing the “three p’s” of participation, population and productivity that drive gross domestic product. In the past 40 years, the participation rates – people employed or actively looking for work – of men and women have been converging, the latter lifting to around 60 per cent compared to around 70 percentage points for males.

However, Deloitte’s research – commissioned by Westpac – showed challenges remained significant. While more than half of businesses have a gender policy or strategy, 44 per cent don’t. Only 6 per cent have dedicated staff time to develop, maintain and execute a diversity and inclusion focus, and just 12 per cent have dedicated budgets.

Around 40 per cent of survey respondents said the availability of female talent was the biggest barrier to achieving gender parity in senior leadership, and 20 per cent of businesses do not expect to hit parity in five years, albeit varying by industry. Large businesses with more than 20,000 employees were less likely than smaller businesses.

“Unlocking these (economic) benefits will take time,” Deloitte states.

The report comes as Westpac hits its goal of women making up 50 per cent of its 6000 leadership roles, continuing a journey that began in 2010 with a target of 40 per cent by 2014, which was achieved early. “We made this commitment not simply because it is the right thing to do – it is a business imperative and we want our teams to reflect the communities and customers that we serve,” chief executive officer Brian Hartzer said.

For more see Westpac Wire