Fostering female leaders

We know the best teams demonstrate diversity of thought – together, it makes us better. We also know to best serve our customers, our business should strive to accurately represent our community, which includes improving the number of women in senior roles. 

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Michelle Cameron, 'Women in Leadership' Program Participant

At ANZ, improving the representation of women in leadership and achieving gender equality is a business imperative.

"Research shows us that having females in leadership positions helps create better business outcomes.” 

It’s about accessing the talent, markets and economic opportunities gender equality brings and creating an environment that allows more women to reach leadership positions. 

To grow the representation of women, we must create and protect their pathways for growth. 

Within Australia Retail, ANZ’s largest division, we’ve created the “Women in Leadership” program to encourage women to step up into their next leadership role. 

Having the right balance within the division will provide us the cognitive diversity necessary for success. This helps us become more competitive as a workforce and a business.

We need to make sure we ‘walk the walk’ when we talk about being an open and inclusive space. Elevating awareness and opportunity in leadership is what we’re focused on.

Understanding the barriers to entry 

Research shows females in leadership positions help create better business outcomes. 

ANZ roughly conforms to the financial and insurance services industry average in having a slight majority female workforce (50.8 per cent), but a lower representation of women in leadership (37.3 per cent).

Within Australia Retail, female representation in leadership is higher at 44.3 per cent –still lower than we’d like it to be. 

We know too that lower representation of women in leadership leads to an increase in the gender pay gap.   

Our median gender pay gap (the difference between what men and women are paid), as reported by Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) last month was 23.1 per cent. 

This is higher than we’d like – anything above parity is too high – though still below the average pay gap of 28.6 per cent for the industry. Pleasingly our median pay equity gap (that is people who are in like-for-like roles) is minimal at 0.01 per cent. 

The key to making inroads in closing the gender pay gap is increasing the representation of women in senior roles – which is why it’s critical to protect the pipeline of future leaders. 

Supporting Women in Leadership

We’ve committed to a target of 40 per cent of women in leadership roles across ANZ. Specifically, within Australia Retail, our target is 45 per cent. 

To reach these targets, we need a plan to overcome the barriers and activate enablers for women in leadership. 

A Women in Leadership Action Plan has been developed, but can be successful if we complement it with divisional plans. Some of these levers include: 

  • Hiring – how can we make sure we’re removing bias when we hire? 
  • Promotion – how can we shine a light on the female leaders? 
  • Retention – maintaining women in senior roles and collating data 
  • Build – establishing pathways to help grow our talented female leaders

Within Australia Retail our plan includes: 

  • A sponsorship program between senior leaders and potential future female leaders 
  • Hiring guidance to ensure bias isn’t part of our recruitment process 
  • A support framework for women returning to work after an extended break, such as parental leave 
  • A new “job share” arrangement to help better facilitate part time work practises 

Personally creating the connections 

I am taking an active role in the sponsorship program, as a sponsor to Michelle Cameron, one of our Project Managers within Strategic Delivery in Australia Retail.

As a senior sponsor, one of the most valuable things I can do is create connections and provide advocacy for Michelle. As a sponsor, understanding your sponsee and their ambitions is a crucial step to helping them navigate their career.

It also helps them build skills and relationships to achieve their goals. While it’s important for sponsors to provide insights, it’s also about providing a listening ear. 

Michelle, who has been with ANZ for 17 years, said the game changer was the prioritisation of time. 

“It can be easy to kick the can down the road a little. But working with Shannon dedicates time from the both of us to my development and gives us accountability to keep working on it, together.”

While the sponsorship program is in the pilot phase, we want to expand it eventually. The more people we can get involved the better.

Shannon McMahon is Managing Director of Home Lending at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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