In a recent article (AFR 20/3/14) Karen Stocks, Twitter’s Australian MD discussed how her male mentors made her think more aggressively about pushing herself and believing in herself. They stated that if she aspired to be CEO she had to be more aggressive in pushing for it. Appointed as CEO in September 2013, the article stated that Karen Stocks has an accounting background and is a mother to two teenage daughters. I found it interesting that that aspect was subtly thrown in….
Another article in the same edition of AFR listed the statistics of women in leadership teams for the country’s top accounting, legal and investment banking firms. At Goldman Sacs out of 54 MD’s only 4 are women, but yet 91% of support staff are women. In the legal profession, women are equally represented at the special counsel/senior associate level but at Clayton Utz, women only represent 20% of partners. The current debate at political level is that “gender reporting data is critical to driving change” (Helen Conway, Director Workplace Gender Equality Agency). Maybe, but is that a simplistic approach to a systemic issue?
Maybe many women don’t buy into what it takes to get to the “top”? Particularly at traditional “institutions” such as many of those firms dominating the legal, banking and accounting professions. Often those firms are characterized by the level of male domination and many existing in them are determined this will continue through embedded cultures and inflexible working structures. The subtle expectation is often that women will opt out or settle at a level because of reasons such as children.
New players challenging the status quo in these professions have the top tier firms taking note; emerging professional services firms are picking off some of their top talent. Hive Legal, a virtual firm, was established to “challenge the status quo” (Lawyers Weekly, 20/2/14), their team can work remotely and this “gives experienced lawyers the opportunity work more flexibly”. Watch this space, as this firm has already picked up big name clients and talent to join their ranks.
Maybe many of us are just over the grind? The lack of inflexibility in workplaces impacts both genders, and the politics and constant focus on revenue and cutting costs can be exhausting. I believe it’s as multi-dimensional as we are. Women often don’t see themselves as ready to contest the “top” job. Workplaces and cultures need reform. But bring on the new breed I say and do it faster! Because what we need is a lift in engagement, productivity, flexibility and creativity….