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Each for equal 2020

08 March 2020 Sadhana Smiles
Sadhana Smiles

Happy International Women’s Day 2020. Another year of celebrating women’s empowerment, and this year’s theme is Each for Equal.

To me, this theme is about making empowerment everybody’s issue, challenging assumptions, bias, the status quo and, most importantly, ensuring that men and woman work together to achieve equality.

Every year, I am challenged by someone about why we need IWD Day. The best way I can respond to this is to share data from my 2018 Ambition survey. 

This was an industry-first survey with over 200 responses, and we know that the issue of equality, parity and diversity is one that will be solved if men and women work together, when leaders make deliberate decisions on who they hire and promote and most importantly are unaccepting of inappropriate behaviour. 

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According to the survey, some of the issues that women are facing are conscious and unconscious bias, bullying, parity, balancing work and family, lack of respect in the workplace, managing stress and loss of confidence; sadly, none of these behaviours lead to equality. 

We all know that one of the ways that we can start to make changes is to promote women into executive or leadership roles. 

According to the survey, 70 per cent of women were interested in directorship or shareholding; however, only 36 per cent had opportunities to buy in. Opportunities are either nonexistent or women simply are overlooked. Interestingly, 83 per cent were interested in a leadership role, yet we have a distinct lack of women in such roles across the country. 

Alarmingly, over 52 per cent of the women who responded had experienced inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. We have recently seen many women share their experiences on this issue — my call to leaders is that the standard you walk past is the standard you accept. Make sure that if behaviour is being reported to you on an ongoing basis that you pay attention, or if you see it, you call it out. 

With Each for Equal being the IWD theme for 2020, let’s review what women are saying on how leaders and other women can work together to change the current paradigm. 

Understand women’s ambitions 

Our survey showed that only 22 per cent of respondents actually have a business plan; if leaders are not sitting down and understanding what women in their organisation want, then you won’t connect or understand their ambitions. 

Women often require support, sponsors to open the door for them to step through into leadership roles. For many women in our industry who are in leadership roles today, a male leader opened the door for most of them. Imagine if this became the norm across the industry? 

Equal billing at conferences 

I recently saw a well-known trainer running an all-male leadership panel. Imagine if those same men had asked the question: Have you got a female leader? I can suggest a couple to you who would be great to bring a different perspective and point of view to the discussion. 

Acknowledge there is an issue 

How can you not? We don’t see women in leadership roles, and what you can't see you can’t be. Future generations will demand this, and companies will lose talent if they don’t make these changes. 

Women need to step up as well 

We need to find a way to step up, to ask for what we want, and if we don’t get it, to have the courage to find it elsewhere. If you are talented, someone will recognise it and give you a place to belong to. 

The boys club 

The boys club exists because leaders allow it to. By not making deliberate hiring decisions, accepting inappropriate behaviour and not promoting talented women into leadership roles, we do become the boys club. 

To change this, we need to keep the conversation going, and men and women need to stand together to accept that this is an issue, the lack of diversity and parity is unacceptable and agree on how change can be made. 

Each for Equal is a great theme. It should make us reflect on, if we don’t want equality and parity for each other, then what do we want — inequality? 

If we don’t step up and make these changes now, our industry will become less attractive to talent. 

Equality in our workplace and community is something that we are all responsible for. Happy IWD Day. 

My response is almost always the same. Globally, when we have reach parity, equality and when here in Australia we can genuinely say that leadership has made significant inroads into a more diverse workplace, then maybe we could consider cancelling IWD. 

However, global parity is over 220 years away and we only have to look at our industry to know that leaders have to have a focus on ensuring that we have more women in executive and leadership roles. 

Diversity of thought and inclusion is now directly linked to how successful a business is. You must connect with the communities you work in, and up to a certain level, we do that very well in real estate.

By Sadhana Smiles, Harcourts Property Management CEO

Each for equal 2020
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Sadhana Smiles is chief executive officer of Harcourts Victoria, the state division of one of Australia’s leading and well respected real estate brands.

She is also a popular speaker and presenter, and is regularly asked to speak at some of the industry’s most prestigious events, including ARPM, AREC, AREL, RELC, the REINSW Women’s Conference and the Harcourts Conference.

Sadhana is also a regular contributor to a number of national real estate journals and publications.

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