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Gender diversity policy – an Australian banking industry perspective

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Gender diversity Banking

According to a recent article published in several high rated Australian newspapers, „ the days of the bank boardrooms being the domain solely of suits and ties could soon be at an end” (Johnston and Bibby, 2010). This comes as a result of several banks such as Westpac and Commonwealth Bank who announced new policies to dramatically boost the number of women in management roles.

According to Westpac management, the bank had put in place a gender target to double the number of women in management positions to 40% in the next 4 years. The KPI used to monitor the results of this initiative is % Managers who are women. It can be found in the KPIs examples from the Human Resources Functional Area section of www.smartkpis.com.

The new targets come mostly as a response to the new ASX guidelines which are about to come in force in January, though as several studies and reports already proved, gender diversity can boost a company’s performance (Smith et al, 2005; Manpower, 2008), and thus should be a standard strategy to be adopted and followed by most of the companies.

Several companies like the ANZ Bank, already recognized this necessity of promoting more women in management positions. Currently, they are well on their way, running programs to boost the corporate gender diversity. According with the ANZ (2010) corporate responsibility policy:

• Organizations who are employers of choice for women have access to a larger talent pool;

• Are better positioned to represent the needs of customers and communities;

• Understand the link between a higher proportion of women in top management and increased profitability;

• „Gender diversity is an important characteristic of companies with excellent financial performance and developing women managers and leveraging that talent by giving them a seat at the decision making table is smart business.” (ANZ, 2008)

Though, a number of governmental official voices, among which Marie Steel, the acting director of the federal government’s Equal Opportunity for Women in Workplace Agency, already questioned how the 40% target will be achieved in such a short period of time, the initiatives seems to be an achievable one.

A recent survey among the Australian corporations shows that the banking sector is the best positioned to boost their gender diversity, with 13% of women employed in management position compared with just 8% for the country general.

Though the initiative is laudable, as Johnston and Bibby (2010) in their article acknowledge, there is a lot of terrain to cover, especially when comparing with high achievers like Sweden or Norway.

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