What 21 Males are doing for the advancement of women?The Business Council of Australia has called for the number of women in senior management roles to increase to 50 per cent in the next decade. The question is whether business has any answers to achieve this.

Actually they do – an influential group of 21 men is championing the advancement of women, as the ‘Male Champions of Change’. If the Business Council is telling us the ‘what’ on this issue, these men are driving the ‘how-to’.

The Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, started the Male Champions of Change in April 2010 to drive a sustainable increase in the number of women in Australia in leadership roles.

Their Accelerating the Advancement of Women report released recently made 12 recommendations to get more women into leadership roles in Australian business

Who are The Male Champions of Change

The champions are department heads, CEO’s and non-executive directors drawn from business and the federal government. Together, they are collaborating to achieve more significant representation of women in senior positions, faster.

The question these men have asked themselves is why there are not more women in their teams.

Significantly, for these Male Champions of Change it isn’t about everyone else, or about theory, it is about creating real increases in the numbers of women in senior roles in the businesses they run, and calling on others to do the same.

They’ve not only recognised the need for women across all roles to create a promotion pipeline in both business and government, they’re doing something about it.

Actions for the Advancement of Women

The major initiatives outlined to further the advancement of women include:

+ The Plus-One Pledge

+ Refusal to speak on panels that do not include a woman

+ Initiatives to retain women after maternity leave

+ Engaging suppliers to promote women

The Plus-One Pledge

The Plus-One Pledge is to add a women to every team across every level of an organisation. It is practically increasing the number of women in the pipeline for promotion, not just in senior roles.

It is a plan based on a trial conducted by Citi Australia in 2011. Citi drove a 9% increase in women in senior-vice-president-and-above roles in 2011, and a 24 percent increase in 2012 – this from an inital trial in which a minimum of one senior woman was promoted into an open role.

The Plus-One Pledge has been adopted by a number of companies. The managing director of IBM Australia, Andrew Stevens, has gone a step further, to offer bonuses to managers who meet, or exceed, the targets for the number of women in their teams.

ANZ chief executive Mike Smith said it is a seemingly small step to drive real change in his bank.

Refusal to Speak

The Refusal to Speak is designed to lift women’s voices. Elizabeth Broderick has indicated that the CEOs in the Male Champions of Change will refuse to speak on any panel which doesn’t include a woman.

The companies are effectively saying “don’t even speak to us if you want our CEO to take the stage at an all-male event”.

Going Further For Women

As Citi led the way with the trial of the Plus-One Pledge, it has also been stemming the loss of women with carer responsibilities. This has included increasing the contact mothers, while on maternity leave, have with their managers to help make their return easier.

Citi is pushing managers harder to ensure they get their employees back to work after taking time off. According to Citi Australia country officer Stephen Roberts, Citi was losing fantastic women who weren’t returning after having children.

The Power To Drive Real Change

The Male Champions of Change have not only made the promotion of women within their organisations a priority, but have also made a commitment to improve the promotions of women within their suppliers.

This pressure to promote women is considered to to be one of the most significant of the recommendations of the group. This is a group with buying power, billions of dollars of buying power.

With companies such as Qantas, Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, and Woolworths represented, conversations with suppliers about promoting women have the potential to drive real change.

It isn’t solely a numbers game though, it is about starting the conversations to encourage the action that drive tangible and lasting changes. It is about highlighting the benefits more diverse leadership teams bring to business.

The report is not just about adding women but about consciously choosing the best female talent for new roles.

Hopefully, with the recommendations in the Accelerating the Advancement of Women report, the work of the Male Champions of Change in business and the calls from the Business Council of Australia we will never have to hear ‘this is going to take some time’ again.