Time to see women in business



By NAB Group Executive Business Banking, Angie Mentis.

Parity can mean many things to many people. For me, it’s a world where young women set the bar high for themselves – because they can see roles models who have forged a path before them.

To get there, we need to make it comfortable for women to step out into the spotlight.

We need to make it okay to proudly share our expertise and achievements with others – not because we’re bragging, but because it’s normal. And because it inspires and helps others.

At NAB, the biggest business bank in Australia, we see thousands of women in business – starting businesses, building businesses, entrepreneurs designing products and services and taking them to the world.

We see them all the time. Or do we?

If we look at the business pages of any newspaper, on any given day – and how many women in business do you see?

One or two? On a good day, maybe three or four?  Yes, that’s right. All too often the media is dominated by male voices.

Research from Global Media Monitoring Projects tells us women make up only 24% of the people heard, read about or seen in newspapers, television and radio news, exactly as they did in 2010.

While many small businesses are starting to embrace social media to grow their businesses, digital media is still dominated by men, with only 26 per cent of people on internet and twitter news being women.

So what about us? Despite 40% of NAB’s group executive team, 50% of my own leadership team and half of our graduate intake being female, our male colleagues make up the lion’s share of media appearances. Our own media analysis over the past four months reveals only 25% of NAB spokespeople were female.

This visibility problem extends to events, keynotes and panels where male-only speaker panels seem to be the norm.

Male Champions of Change members have pledged to not show up if panels are male only, however panel organisers still report finding it difficult to get women to appear. They say it’s too hard to find us.

So why is it so hard for women to be seen and heard when male business people seem to do it all the time?

I believe it comes down to confidence.

In 29 years of banking, I’ve seen it time and time again. Women not backing themselves or putting their hand up- they want to have 100% of the skills before feeling ready for a promotion or not speaking up in meetings for fear of boasting.

What are the consequences for this lack of diversity? It limits the quality of conversations and the business outcomes.

When all the role models are male, the absence of women perpetuates further absence of women.

Fewer women chose to be seen, and fewer are chosen. Profile building opportunities pass us by, and with it goes the depth of experience and recognition that comes with those opportunities.

Just last month, Australia’s population tipped the 24 million mark, and for the first time, women have overtaken men in terms of population in our country.

Women are increasingly out-earning and out-living men, they make up a larger percentage of first home buyers and they are steadily increasing their presence of small-business ownership.

The number of women in self-employment is increasing at a faster rate than the number of men.

There are now more women than men aged 33-45 years running businesses and NAB’s own internal data shows that 31 per cent of customers who identify themselves as a “company director” are female.

We have this whole economy of aspiring, busy, courageous women running great businesses – yet we’re not seeing enough of them and this is stalling our quest for parity.

As former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick says: “If you don’t intentionally include, the system unintentionally excludes”.

So today is about intentionally including, intentionally stepping into the spotlight.

It’s about accepting and embracing the rightful place we have to be seen and be heard.

My personal commitment is to make more time to be seen and heard – speaking at forums, having a greater online presence, and engaging with the media more on issues that matter most to Australian businesses. And I will be supporting and encouraging my female colleagues to do the same.

I will celebrate our female customer through NAB’s ‘Women in Business’ campaign – shining the spotlight on women across every sector of business who have been bold, been courageous, who are showing great entrepreneurial spirit to contribute even more to the Australian economy.

Just as I’ve made my personal commitments today, I’m urging you to make some of your own.

Over the next 12 months, what can you do to back yourselves more and make your voice at the table heard?  What can you do to ensure we achieve our pledge for parity?



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