Australia’s business women don’t want gender quotas aimed at ensuring gender equality in the workplace, rather the overwhelming majority believe the mentoring of young women is the best way to achieve equality in Australian businesses.
In a survey of the state winners and finalists of the 2010 Telstra Business Women’s Awards almost three quarters (72 percent) nominated mentoring programs for talented young women as vital for greater gender equality.
Only 15 percent favoured gender quotas in the hiring, retaining or development of women as an initiative to aid gender equality. The second-highest ranked measure was flexible working conditions and locations (60 percent) while 40 percent of respondents nominated practices that encourage women to apply for new roles.
The responses were split almost equally on the question of whether business should comply with government-enforceable quotas, if established, on the number of senior and middle management positions occupied by women, subject to competency standards.
Thirty-nine per cent supported the proposition but 42 per cent said business should not have to comply with quotas. While 34 per cent of those surveyed believed it should be mandatory for businesses to set publicly-reported, measurable targets for the number of women at senior and middle management, 54 per cent did not agree.
When asked to nominate the biggest obstacles to women progressing to senior roles:
- 68 percent chose the difficulties of juggling work and life responsibilities;
- 57 percent said women’s confidence held them back; and
- 35 percent nominated a lack of awareness about the value that gender equality can deliver to business performance.
Lack of affordable, reliable childcare was nominated by 71 percent of those surveyed as one of the biggest obstacles to women returning to work after having children. Sixty-three percent chose a lack of flexible working arrangements while 38 percent said the paucity of female role models managing senior business roles was another of the key barriers.
Forty-five per cent of those surveyed said they had experienced barriers in their career advancement that they attributed to gender bias.
Telstra Chief Marketing Officer and Telstra Business Women’s Awards Ambassador Kate McKenzie said the 2010 Awards finalists and winners surveyed were successful business women whose views provided a valuable insight into issues currently facing women in the workplace.
“These outstanding women are business owners or managers in a diverse range of industries, government and not-for-profit organisations whose achievements inspire others.”