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Leadership and Diversity - Has the gender debate dominated our thoughts on diversity?

07 March 2011

Statistics are flowing through to show the lack of female women on boards but what consideration is being given to age, experience, relationships and cultural backgrounds?

The population of Australia is ageing and so is the work place, we have a decline in the number of young people and rise in the number of seniors. For example in the WA Public Sector the median age of employees is 45 years and employees aged 35-59 represent 66.6% with 20% over the age 55 years. Senior Executives have a median age of 53 years, no senior executives were under the age of 35 years (Public Sector Workforce 2009). This speaks volumes, gender is just one issue but age is certainly a barrier as well as gender and cultural representation. Age old institutions and thinking around \"DO YOUR TIME\" is actually holding the Australian workplace behind. Talented people are leaving Australia and baby boomers are holding onto key positions and not succession planning for talent to rise to the top. Whilst experience is important, I have always said, give me a talented, motivated and intelligent person regardless of age, gender or cultural background and work with them to shape the future of your company. This always pays off dividends and is a key strategy to grow any company. In the WA public sector 68% of employees are female however in the senior executive service females represent 25%. Boards are dominated by older men and women and younger people are struggling to break through the barriers and gain opportunities to build Australia through senior representation in the workplace and on key boards. In the next decade many people will retire and with them will go key knowledge and expertise now is the time to train people and provide them with the opportunity to shine.

Many people perceive that you have to work a long time to get key leadership roles, this limits our ability to give talented people the opportunity they deserve. Australia's tall poppy culture also inhibits people from standing out, we need to encourage people to shine and reward and recognise success. I have been in senior management roles since I was in my early 20's and actively encourage and coach younger people to work towards and have key leadership roles. When you're talented no matter what age you are you need to have your skills utilised or you get bored and when you get bored you look around for another opportunity. Companies need to adapt to an ageing workforce and the need to shape and grow talent regardless of gender, age or cultural background or be left behind.

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