Jun 20,2023

AFR with Alison Mirams: Nine Initiatives Companies can Implement to Promote Women Faster

"Increasing female participation is not difficult. It just needs a consistent focus from senior leaders and to be treated as core business, not as an ‘HR initiative'." Alison Mirams, Executive Chair

Roberts Co Executive Chair, Alison Mirams, was recently invited to write a piece for the AFR.

Here are Alison’s nine practical things that companies can do, women can do and men can do to help women rise through the ranks faster.

  1. Sponsor a woman. My career was built by two amazing men who sponsored my career. I’ve never asked for a promotion – I’m fortunate that they have been offered to me. My first sponsor took me under his wing when I was only 22-years-old, showing you are never too young to be sponsored.
  2. Set pay bands in your organisation and employ into them, regardless of existing salaries. Don’t ask women what they earn and pay them a small increase to join your firm. Employ into pay bands and you will fix the gender pay gap instantly. Twenty-five per cent of the women we employed in our company needed their salaries fixed, some by up to an astounding 40 per cent. No man’s salary needed to be fixed.
  3. Promote women before they go on maternity leave (where appropriate). Don’t make them ask on their return. Their confidence will be down, they will doubt themselves, they won’t ask and this is where women start to slide down the leadership ladder. Promoting before maternity leave will give you a very dedicated employee on her return to work.
  4. Give women a pay rise as they return to work after maternity leave. I hear you say, ‘but their technical skills haven’t changed’. Yes, their technical skills don’t change, but their leadership skills do. They just spent a year at home on an intensive leadership course that you didn’t need to pay for. Their emotional intelligence and leadership skills grew exponentially – they enhanced the skills needed to be an effective leader. While on maternity leave they learn to lead with agility through disruption and changing environments, communicate more effectively in critical conversations (anyone who has a two-year-old will understand this), negotiate with confidence to maximise outcomes, adapt their leadership style to situation and context; and manage their energy, time and stress levels. If those items sound familiar, they are from a university leadership course. Speaking from personal experience, I know my leadership skills and empathy grew once I walked in the shoes of a parent.
  5. Once promotions are done – split them by gender to make sure female promotions are occurring in the same proportion as the company participation rate. Bring women with you, don’t leave them behind accidentally.
  6. When you decline an event, don’t just decline it – ask if you can send a senior female in your place. Give them the opportunity to sit in the room, to hear the messages and to network. It might be an unimportant event to you, but it will be a great opportunity for a rising star.
  7. Set targets and report on them. Everything we do in life, we set a target and female participation is no different. What gets measured gets actioned.
  8. Tie bonuses to increasing gender diversity. There is nothing like personal greed to change behaviour and focus.
  9. And finally, keep women in the sporting conversation on a Monday morning. When I was at university, my best friend taught me the rules of every sport. I didn’t realise at the time what a lifelong gift he was giving me (I’m not sure he did either, he was just sports mad). I have had many women say to me ‘men always talk about sport and it’s so boring, so I just walk away’. The issue is that when the sporting conversation finishes the discussion moves onto work, deals, tactics and opportunities. And it is at this point that women have left the conversation. They miss out on the informal networking and mentoring. Keeping women in the sporting conversation will ensure they don’t miss out on the informal mentoring opportunities.

To read the full article published on 15.06.23 in the AFR, please visit the following link: afr.com/work-and-careers