The  Women World Changers Summit was packed with inspiring women leaders and supportive male leaders. They had gathered to acknowledge both the issues and the needs related to diversity in the work place. Thought-provoking discussions addressed not only gender issues, but also race and age diversity demographics. Both women and men were looking towards the future, aiming to bring more diversity to work places and reaching the goal of 50/50 gender balance by 2020. So what were my standout takeaways from the summit?  I would classify them into three areas:

  • Problems we face
  • Needs still to be met
  • Possibilities for moving forward

The problems we face could turn out to be a win-win situation for many businesses. One of the biggest challenges women face when they want to return to work from maternity leave is finding part-time positions. As a wellness coach focused on raising performance in natural human abilities, I rely on science. Research proves that human beings are optimally productive for about 4 hours. After that, attention and concentration start to diminish, allowing the mind to wander more, and be less focused on the task at hand. Employers who create part-time positions are creating a win-win situation: women have the work they want; the employer has in return, fully engaged employees. The organisation is gaining a part-time, working mum, who is not only bringing her full focus and attention to the job, but is also very happy to be there. The need for diversity. The summit was not held to promote feminism but to illustrate the need for increased diversity. I could not agree more with Patricia A. Milligan , global leader of multi-national client group Mercer, who said that a diverse work force had the best chance of meeting diverse customer needs. However her detailed data was disappointing. Too many companies are still having internal fights on policies and procedures. These situations remind me of real life stories, where women and men fight over a divorce, and focus on their own rights, while most of the time forgetting about the most important outcome – the welfare of their children. In organisations, if we focus on internal fights between womens’ and mens’ rights, we shift our focus away from the main outcome – meeting the customers’ needs. According to Giam Swiegers, Global CEO of Aurecon, it should be “less about the policies, more about the capabilities”. The opportunity to grow through true leadership Ming Long’s (former group executive & IOF fund manager, Investa property group) analogy was the biggest ‘aha’ moment for me. “Slavery did not disappear because black people thought it was a bad idea. Slavery disappeared because white people thought it was a bad idea”.  if we want to make a change in gender equality, it’s a man’s responsibility too. True leadership is based on trust. Patricia A. Milligan’s data revealed that higher level and executive level management positions in Australia are dominated by males. In response, John Lydon, a managing partner at McKinsey Australia and New Zealand, suggested that the way forward is for “the male leaders to start first, put their hands out to women leaders and share their expertise”. Male leaders and real gentlemen! In summary, the biggest take away for me from the WWC Summit was not about feminism. It was about the need for diversity, for bringing the strengths of both genders to the work force. Let’s lighten up on the facts. If we want to find a solution we need to take something from Venus and something from Mars, and be somewhere in the middle on the Earth where we find a common ground. Gitana Gataveck