Monday, June 5, 2023

Start Listening to Women = Removal of Barriers for Women Leaders

Michelle Redfern appeared here on my blog in a Q&A to celebrate International Women’s Day back in March 2022, and recently, we re-connected to revisit gender equality and leadership issues. Our convo follows a brief bio.

Michelle Redfern is a globally recognised gender equality, diversity, and inclusion strategist based in Australia. She advises organisations in the business and sporting sectors on DEI strategy development and implementation and works directly with women leaders to advance their careers. She has been recognised as one of Australia’s Top 100 Women of Influence and has won awards for her contribution to women’s advancement. She is passionate about what sets her soul on fire, closing the global leadership gender gap, and enabling women to have a career that soars!

QUESTION: A report entitled, "The Great Renegotiation: Report Rings Alarm that Nearly Half of Women Executives in Revenue Roles are Considering Leaving their Company," was published by Women in Revenue. According to Deanna Ransom, Executive Director of Women in Revenue, “When 50 percent of your female leadership isn’t happy, you need to take a close look internally. Marketing, sales, and customer success are the lifeblood of companies. We’re bringing customers in the door and closing the deals. Women aren’t being paid what they’re worth. They need equal pay, pay transparency, and mentorship to trust that they’re valued, heard, and have a clear career path. Otherwise, in this market they’re going to walk, take another offer, or possibly strike out on their own.” What are your thoughts?

(Read the full report here:

MICHELLE REDFERN: There is a lot going on in that question Debbie! I want to break it down into the key issues as I see them.
[1] HIGH RISK OF TURNOVER OF WOMEN AT THE EXECUTIVE LEVEL: The zeitgeist of the Great “R” whether it’s resignation, rethink, reset, or renegotiation, has reached a fever pitch since the Covid global pandemic. It seems like every place I look, there is another report telling us how bad things are for women. Women's workplace issues have always been there, but the conditions created by the pandemic shone a much-needed light on them. Ms. Ransom is spot on with her commentary, because a trend of 50% disengagement of executive women is a significant risk. And, like any other risk, it cannot be ignored and must be managed or mitigated.

[2] THE GENDER PAY GAP: The gender pay gap means that, on average, men earn a higher income than women. There are many driving factors, including male-dominated industries having higher pay rates (e.g., mining, manufacturing, and construction) with feminised industries (e.g., caregiving, teaching, and healthcare) earning much lower pay rates.

Also, women’s workforce participation must be addressed to close the gender gaps in the paid workforce. Women still perform 75% of the world’s unpaid labour, including caring.

Another factor is the leadership gender gap. Men still dominate the most senior and well-paid roles in society. Addressing the role of men in society is key – men must be taught from the outset of their lives that they are equally responsible for what I call the 3 C’s: Cooking, cleaning, and caring! Every one of us must challenge rigid gender stereotypes – and that begins at home.

[3] PAY TRANSPARENCY: A very bright light must be shone on the gender pay gap; one way is through greater transparency. There are two levels to this: the organisational level and the job level.

Organisational Level: Australian Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) has been reporting on Australia’s gender pay gap for over a decade, and from 2024 onwards, private-sector employer pay gaps will be published. This legislated reform will accelerate change for workplace gender equality.

Job Level: The State of New York mandated that employers disclose the compensation or range of compensation in any advertisement for a job, promotion, or transfer opportunity. Here’s the link to take a look:

[4] MENTORSHIP: I have been very vocal that women are over-mentored and under-promoted. If 50% of the women in your organisation are about to walk, for goodness’ sake, don’t assign them a mentor!  The better thing to do is to listen to the women in your organisation at every level to understand their lived experiences at work.

This means asking women three key questions:
First, “What is it like for you to work here?”
Second, “What should I do more of to support you?”
Third, “What should I do less of to support you?”

Use my discussion guide, How to Listen to Women, to help with this critical conversation. Here’s the link:

Executive and other women will vote with their feet when conditions in their workplace do not meet their needs. Leaders who are serious about sustainable high performance of their organisation who ignore this fact, and the factors leading to women's unhappiness and disengagement about their workplace, do so at the peril of being on the wrong side of the success/failure ledger.

SHARE THIS: Women will vote with their feet when conditions in their workplace do not meet their needs. ~@RedfernMichelle #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Fast Company published an article entitled, "New Report Finds 60 Percent of Women in Leadership Feel Lonelier As Their Careers Progress." How can we reverse this trend?

(Read the full article here:

MICHELLE REDFERN: Climbing up the leadership ladder, particularly as a CEO, can be a daunting experience with limited peers. That's why it's essential for women, regardless of their career stage, to actively seek out support groups. Women's networks offer a fantastic opportunity to connect with others in similar situations, exchange achievements and challenges, acquire new skills, and strategically expand networks.

QUESTION: In an article published by Harvard Business Review entitled "Where Women's Leadership Development Programs Fall Short," the theme was that these programs "can signal that women are deficient and need fixing, or that the under-representation of women in senior leadership positions is a result of their inability to compete with men." Wow! How can we turn around this inaccurate interpretation?

(Read the full article here:

MICHELLE REDFERN: One of my mantras is that women do not need fixing. The system does. The system (aka, patriarchal and misogynist attitudes) places barriers in the pathway of women who want to advance into leadership.

They manifest, typically, in three ways.

First: Policies and practices in organisations aren’t women-friendly.

Second: Unexamined mindsets of managers who make decisions about women (gender discrimination and bias).

Third: The skills that women are advised to develop most often (in fact, 97% of the time) fail to address how critical it is for women to develop and demonstrate business, strategic, and financial acumen.

QUESTION: According to an article published by the BBC entitled, "Why We Use Women’s Professional Titles Less Than Men’s," "Across many fields, women who have earned formal titles report that others neglect or dismiss these titles, or even condemn women’s claims to them." To see proof, we can look to the American First Lady to see how many people dismiss Dr. Jill Biden's title. So, how can we get gender parity when it comes to professional titles?

(Read the full article here:

MICHELLE REDFERN: To properly introduce women, we should use titles that reflect their accomplishments. For instance, I introduce a woman with a PhD as "Doctor," even if she has not been using the title. It's important to encourage women to take pride in their achievements and address them accordingly.

QUESTION: You feature the words of the 27th Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, on your website: "I’m offended by the lack of women in positions of leadership and the way those that do make it are treated." Therefore, based on your experience, what three actions can all male leaders take to improve the workplace for women who aspire to become leaders?

MICHELLE REDFERN: Men who are in leadership positions must do the following:

First: Not assume they understand the lived experience of women in the workplace. THEY DO NOT.

Second: START LISTENING TO WOMEN. Ask women what works and what doesn’t work in the workplace for them. Ask women what must be done more of and what must be done less of to make the workplace a better place for women and to help them advance.

Third: Take action on the insights they have gained.

SHARE THIS: Men who are in leadership positions must not assume they understand the lived experience of women in the workplace. They do not. ~@RedfernMichelle #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My gratitude to Michelle for sharing her insights about leadership and gender equality.

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Check out Michelle’s previous appearance here on my Blog:
Tips to Create Gender Equality in Your Workplace

Connect with Michelle at these links:

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