Breaking the 'boy's club'​; defying the odds to be the odd one out.

Matt Woods Chairman of Partners, WA at KPMG, outgoing Chairman of Partners Gary Smith were today joined by Sue Murphy AO non-executive director as our co-facilitator to host a CEO Roundtable.

It is fair to say that large workplaces typically have the resources and wherewithal to drive gender balance. But beyond the systems, policies and processes that support gender equity, WA still has the highest pay gap in Australia (22.4% according to the ABS) and the most amount of men in senior roles.

Many professional services firms and other mature workplaces having been on the gender equity journey for at least a decade have much to celebrate with women at the top.

This discussion however acknowledged that despite these wins, in some pockets of the business, 'boy's clubs' may still persist.

Unlike most conversations about 'boy's clubs' the discussion did not centre on what women need to do to break into, navigate or conquer the 'boy's club'. In fact a quick Google search on 'boy's clubs' provides advice to women only ... as a pathway to the C-suite.

At CEOs for Gender Equity, we have made some really bold assumptions:
Change starts at the top, and it starts with the CEO;
Diverse teams that are inclusive of women are good for business; and
Women are OK! That is, some women may have outperformed their male peers but are overlooked for promotions because membership to the 'boy's club' is a golden ticket to the top, trumping merit each time.

The discussion centred on what they needed to do as leaders of their organisations to create an organisational culture where the 'boy's club' is a relic of the past.

It is in inclusive environments that women are developed and retained so that they can access senior roles based on real merit that is equally applied to men and women, in most cases, for the first time.

And to be fair, CEOs for Gender Equity has been criticised for being a 'boy's club' in social media; looking at the picture at the top I can see why.

As reflected here, nine out of 10 CEOs in WA are men. Nearly one two thirds of senior managers are men.

Our work very much focuses on dismantling the 'boy's club' from within so that we can change the picture and have more women in senior roles and in the C-suite.

At CEOs for Gender Equity we ask senior leaders to do the 'heavy lifting', because they are the ones that need to change the rules of the game and how the game is played.

At CEOs for Gender Equity our leaders are responsible for clearly articulating their commitment to gender equity not only as a business imperative, but as an excellent corporate responsibility.

Simply put, if a CEO does the right thing, says the right things, measures and prioritises the right things then staff, future employees, stakeholders and consumers feel they can trust them to do the right thing when it comes to creating an inclusive workplace for women and men. They also become a magnet for top female talent.

Women today are choosing companies that they want to work for because they know that they don't have to defy the odds, of breaking into the 'boy's club', just to be the odd one out. Rather they are choosing those workplaces where the 'boy's club' has been relegated to the past.

Tania Cecconi

Since 2016, I have been thrilled to work with CEOs for Gender Equity as its inaugural executive director. Working with progressive CEOs my goal is to turn the dial in Western Australia. My job is to help them lead the transformation of their workforce by eliciting and sharing their stories of what works and doesn't work to drive and improve gender equity further.