Published by the Faculty of Business, Government and Law, University of Canberra


Research and Stories through a Gendered Lens

Stop applauding the launch of initiatives for women

Nov 19, 2021 | Gender, Commentary, Leadership, Equality, Opinion, Feature

Written by Tristonne Forbes

It’s way too easy to launch an initiative supporting women. It’s a lot harder to fess up to whether they worked, which is maybe why no-one does. Applause should be linked to results, not empty platitudes.

Another Monday morning, another big announcement by a big company launching their program to champion women in the workforce. It’s a story we hear often but it is no longer inspiring. It’s annoying.

The recent Women in the Workplace 2021 Report reveals the many ways that working environments are still not equitable for women. Which is why companies running female support programs should commit to providing full transparency of outcomes. Not top line vanity metrics like the number of women involved or how much they each feel they benefited. We need to measure the impact of the program on company culture.

We should be tracking the true measures of success. We should be tracking our progress towards never needing to run one of these programs again.

Imagine where we would be today if we had this information for the multitude of women’s initiatives run over the last 25, hell it’s more like 50 years!

Frankly I find most of these programs underwhelming and patronising. Women don’t need charity. We don’t need to be treated with kid-gloves. We don’t need special help. We are not the problem.

Statistics, that are more accurately collected and reported every year, confirm this. Having women involved in any business venture and especially on boards increases the likelihood of success. We are nailing it!

Initiatives designed to mainstream this success are not. The mechanics that sit behind them appear flawed. Correcting this requires the systematic and transparent tracking of results, followed by thoughtful analysis. Imagine the impact, for example, of data that substantiated that initiatives targeted directly at women were counterproductive. It’s likely.

If we look hard enough we may find analysis on the outcomes of bigger female support initiatives hidden in a few annual reports somewhere, but that’s not much good to anyone. Results need to be published wherever the big announcement of the flashy initiatives are published. Ideally they need to completely replace them.

If we are serious about nailing this once and for all we need to change the emphasis from fancy launches to in-depth, ongoing evaluations and results.

As quickly as possible because everyone is getting so fatigued by decades of good but, if we are still needing to run these programs, feeble intentions.

Please note: Feature image is a stock photo

Tristonne Forbes is a business strategist and entrepreneur that works in the tech sector bringing new technologies and products to market.

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