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Women and Responsible Leadership: Perspectives from leaders in the Australian Public Service

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Women and Responsible

Leadership: Perspectives

from leaders in the

Australian Public Service

Dr Alan Burton-Jones

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Griffith MBA Values

If you undertake the Griffith MBA you will graduate with an understanding of responsible leadership, sustainable business practices and what it means to work globally within the Asian Century - as such you will be equipped to be an effective businessperson in the 21st century.

Responsible leadership

Giving our students the knowledge and skills and values to encourage them to become responsible leaders in the future, with a concern for planet and people as well as profit.

Sustainable business practices

Researching, developing and promoting social, financial and environmental approaches that lead to sustainable businesses and communities.

Global orientation

Providing education and research that recognises we operate in a fast-changing global environment, and that prepares global citizens, with a special focus on the Asia Pacific region.

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Introduction

As society demands more of its organisations in terms of business ethics, sustainability and respect for stakeholders, organisations are passing on these demands to their leaders—hence a growing interest in the concept of responsible leadership. In the first of our series of white papers on the topic we explored the notion of responsible leadershipi; in this, the second in

the series we explore responsible leadership in practice. As increasing numbers of women take on leadership roles we ask how they view the notion of responsible leadership and their perceptions of the barriers involved in undertaking such roles in what is still a man’s world. The following perspectives are drawn from interviews conducted in June 2013 with three women, all currently in senior leadership roles in the Australian public service.

Anna Booth: Deputy President of Fair Work Australia

Anna Booth is a Deputy President of Fair Work Australia. She was previously non-executive Chair of the board of Slater and Gordon, a member of Industry Super entities and an executive director of the workplace relations consulting firm, CoSolve. Prior to this she held senior positions with Star City, the Shopping Centre Council of Australia and was a director of various Boards including the Commonwealth Bank from 1990-2000 and the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) from 1995-2000. She was also the National Secretary of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union and the Clothing and Allied Trades Union and a Vice President of the ACTU.

Commenting on the role of Fair Work Australia Booth observed: “It is a peculiarly Australian institution, with its genesis I think in a desire by those who governed us to create an orderly set of rules, around which conflict could be resolved without resort to unbridled power where one side must vanquish the other. The immediate stakeholders in Workplace Relations are the employer, or more precisely managers, and their employees. Obviously very closely aligned to the employer and managers are the shareholders. The employees are often, although less so nowadays, represented by unions, whom they’ve chosen to join to provide them with a collective voice in establishing new rights, as well as resolving conflict around the implementation of existing rights.”

Asked about the attraction of the Fair Work commission process for the parties using it, Booth commented: “I think trustworthiness is at the heart of it. There are two main

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have more choices than the Fair Work Commission at their disposal to undertake mediation. If we weren’t trusted then the parties wouldn’t come to us and we wouldn’t be able to assist them to see the situation differently, such that they could then reach an agreement, which is clearly the preferable way to resolve disputes. It’s much more sustainable to work within a set of rules which you’ve had a hand in creating than it is to accept the rules that are handed down through arbitration.”

Asked to identify a significant challenge she had faced during her career that had called for a responsible leadership approach, Booth responded: “One challenge that comes to mind occurred when I was a National Union Official in the textile clothing and footwear industries. The industry was undergoing massive restructuring as a result of changes in border

protection – not against people but against goods from other countries where cost

structures were much lower. When I first began to think about this I was not an elected union official, so I had the luxury you might say of being able to take a more detached view of the issues involved. I had to confront the choice between the populist approach, which was simply to oppose change and what I came to believe was the responsible approach, which was to seek to understand what the economic forces were that were driving change, identify which of those forces were stoppable and which were not and to understand the

consequences for both employees and employers of that change. I decided to put much more policy effort into mitigating and ameliorating the consequences of change, rather than trying to turn back the tide on what I concluded was a global set of circumstances that we were not going to be able to avoid. That was a hard stance to take, because the membership simply wanted to stop the change and the officials wanted to find any kind of policy that would gain the consent of the members. Yet they were really good in that they allowed me to make my case – and there were some pretty heated arguments behind closed doors about directions we should take!

I think in the end, whilst there may be many people who would say ‘if you hadn’t been party to changes in barrier protection then we would still have a TCF industry today that would be larger and employ more people’, I personally doubt that would be the case. The things that we did achieve created a pathway of structural change that was more orderly and responsible than would have occurred otherwise. For example we created for the first time a structural adjustment program for women that included income support and access to training, which was not means-tested by the family income. We thought that was important because the industry was largely made up of women and many didn’t have the basic foundational skills to get work outside the sector. We did what we could to set those women up for success in the

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3 future. That was a policy choice that I think was responsible and where the easier path would have been just to oppose everything”.

Elizabeth Broderick: Australian Sex Discrimination

Commissioner

Elizabeth Broderick was formerly a partner in law firm Blake Dawson and since 2007 has been the Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner, one of six commissioners at the Australian Human Rights commission. She describes her role as “the promotion of gender equality in all aspects of Australian society.”

A typical day in her life might involve “…anything from strong advocacy, either in the media for the community, or lobbying government, or engaging with key

constituencies, which might be women’s groups, business groups, NGOs across the spectrum, unions, peak bodies or the military. You might be 200 meters under the ocean in a submarine, in the White House, in Australia’s Parliament, camping out with Aboriginal women, working with sex workers in Dakar – it’s huge!”

Since her appointment in 2007 Broderick has promoted a range of women’s interests from pay equality and economic security to women’s representation in leadership. She represents Australia in the United Nations and recently led the Commission’s Review into the Treatment of Women in the Australian Defence Force Academy and the Australian Defence Force (ADF). An early initiative was to enlist the support of influential male leaders: “When I came into this role, after a couple of years I realised that women speaking to women about these issues was not what was going to create change, because the site of organisational power in Australia sits in the hands of men. That’s why I set up the Male Champions of Change, a group of 24 really influential and powerful men. I picked up the phone and I rang 24 men. I rang Alan Joyce at Qantas and the head of Woolworths and the head of CBA, the head of ANZ, the head of Telstra, the head of Treasury, the head of the Prime Ministers Department, and I brought in the head of Army. I said to them ‘these are the areas of existing inequality between men and women in Australia, would you be prepared, not just to create change in your own

organisations (and they’re responsible for more than 1 million employees and over a hundred billion dollars’ worth of products and services purchased every year) but would you be prepared to stand up and be a strong global advocate on this issue, and not just use your individual power but your collective wisdom to create change – and that’s what they’ve done!

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It’s just been phenomenal; it’s been fascinating for me to see how really powerful men operate.”

Much of Broderick’s current work focuses on the treatment of women in the Australian military: “I went around about 40 military bases. Women would book in to see me on a one-on-one and often they’d disclose things that they’d never talked about before, often around sexual abuse and assault. I started to understand that if I wanted to change the military I had to connect those women with men who had power, so that was the chiefs of the services. And that’s exactly what I did! I arranged for each of the chiefs, the chief of army, the air force and the navy, to spend time standing in the shoes of those women, to feel the case for change. What is it like to be sexually assaulted by your instructor? What’s it like to have your career trashed because you were prepared to speak out and complain? What’s it like to suffer extreme exclusion when no one talks to you for months on end? Speaking at the UN last month the chief of army said, ‘In my 34 years in the military, it’s the most distressing few days I’ve ever spent and it’s something that just changed my whole view of what we need to do here.’”

From an ADF perspective gender equality is “not just about being nice to women” but also about strategic sustainability: “If you look at the military, the traditional talent pool from which they are drawing is pretty much white Anglo men in the age group 17-24. Those talent pools are flat-lining and the mining industry is drawing extensively from that group. So, for the military, recruiting more women is about having a sustainable workforce, it’s about improved capability.” Broderick noted how new technologies are enabling women to take on previously male-dominated roles in both the private and public sector: “I spent some time at the Pentagon and for a woman in the military who requires a family friendly shift, she can drop the kids at school, go to a warehouse and fly an ‘unmanned aerial vehicle’ and be back at 3:30 to pick the kids up again.”

Rayne de Gruchy: Deputy CEO, Australian Competition

and Consumer Commission

Currently Deputy CEO at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Rayne de Gruchy was formerly CEO of the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS). During her 11 years at the AGS de Gruchy led its transformation from an office within a government department to an 800 strong national legal practice committed to legal excellence, business success and assisting its government clients advance the national interest. Cultural change underpinned the transformation process: “The challenge was to take

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5 an existing very strong collegiate culture and turn it in to something that could work in a competitive market and be sustainable long term”. Governance structures were

strengthened with the establishment of an ethics committee and employee council, and CSR topics began to feature in the annual report, however the main aim was to establish a culture that valued sustainability and CSR: “What is important about sustainability and CSR is really believing in the principles and building all the elements into your leadership program. It’s taking the culture deep into the organisation, so that when anyone acts counter to the culture it becomes perfectly obvious”.

Reflecting on her experience of leading organisational change de Gruchy observed: “You will always find a number of people that are comfortable with change and others that aren’t as comfortable. It’s a question of finding a way through that avoids disenfranchising people. You have to be on the ball when it comes to communicating why the change is important. You also have to recognise where there are problems – that’s where emotional intelligence comes in. What are the problems this person has? Can we bring them on board rather than leave them outside the tent? Breaking down resistance and showing people where you are going – that’s where you need leaders, because without a sense of direction then you don’t get the people prepared to come on the journey.”

Given the ACCC’s role as an independent watchdog, maintaining stakeholder respect and trust is critical: “ACCC is so well known to Australians and by and large is well trusted by Australians; you have to be out there, you have to be open, you have to be listening …it is about active engagement.” Managing individual consumer expectations can pose a challenge: “Respect is one of the key things in our service charter –when people ring up to complain about the treatment they have received from a trader, even if we can’t help them individually we have to treat them with respect and understand that they have a problem and try and give them the best information we can.”

To maintain the trust and respect of the business community the ACCC needs to

demonstrate professionalism: “We work very well with business but sometimes you’ll get tensions – we may be taking a major corporation to court. But business understands that’s our job; they respect that we don’t take frivolous action, that we have processes and that we’re professional, so that provides the arena in which we can engage effectively.” What constitutes responsible leadership in organisations? De Gruchy emphasised the

importance of thinking of leadership in a collective not just an individual sense : “Organisations are social constructs; we come to work every day and we’re all putting different levels of intellect and skill into a whole range of pursuits. It’s a question of how can we all work

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together and make that togetherness create something. It seems to me it’s not just a function of a [single] leader, if you have a group of people who believe in the same things, who have these [CSR] principles at heart, they all work and spark off each other and that creates a dynamism that allows the organisation to move forward.”

How should responsible leaders measure their contributions? De Gruchy commented, “The challenge is to leave an organisation better for having been part of it, that’s part of being a responsible leader. You don’t want to just come and go and things are fine while you are there; you want to leave a legacy”.

Each interviewee was asked: “What do you see as the barriers or issues involved in women taking on responsible leadership roles in organisations and how can they overcome them?”

Anna Booth

“Men have created the institutions of our society globally and some very deliberate and explicit decisions were made by men that women would not be included. When those rules fell away (because they were contested) the assumptions and expectations that they were based on didn’t fall away to the same extent. In areas like health, social welfare, caring and

volunteering, the prevailing institutional wisdom is that women can do those jobs well and women dominate there; in areas where women are still finding it difficult to achieve, like specialist medical services, engineering or the defence forces the prevailing expectations and assumptions still are that women can’t do those things as well as men. For many men it’s an unconscious assumption, they’re not plotting and scheming about how to stop women from getting on boards or anywhere else, it’s simply an unconscious assumption that has created all sorts of obstacles that are difficult to overcome.”

Elizabeth Broderick

“As to the barriers I think a lot of them are real. I like to put them into three categories. One is countrywide belief barriers: the ideal mother belief, if you were born and educated in Australia you believe women should always be with their children. You put that together with the ideal worker belief – available 24/7, no visible caring responsibilities and as a result probably male. The second category is the cultural barriers, like the career development system that when you actually unbundle it produces disadvantage for a particular group – often women because of caring responsibility or whatever. The third group of barriers are structural impediments, such as lack of an effective childcare system here in Australia and until recently no paid parental leave scheme. Add to these the fact that the current work system is built

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7 they should put themselves forward like men, I ask is the male model one that actually works for us as a society. I think that’s the bigger question; by trying to fit women into a male model are we actually benefitting Australia, or society, as a whole?“

Rayne de Gruchy

“In my view there are still barriers for women within organisations and it’s taking a little too long for the barriers to break down… there are other developed economies in the world that seem to have done a little bit better than we have in allowing women to come up through the system. We are trying to make sure that everyone within the ACCC has the opportunity to keep developing their careers. It’s a very merit based organisation…we believe in diversity and we are pushing through in relation to that. We want women to have the confidence keep moving up through the system. We want men to become more the types of mentors and coaches who push women forward, as they have traditionally pushed men forward. As for me, I was lucky to have a feminist educated mother and I never imagined I would do anything other than succeed in my own environment – I have never faced barriers but that was just the luck of where I was.”

i A. Burton-Jones (2012), ‘Responsible leadership’,

http://www.griffith.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/468565/mba-white-paper-responsible-leadership.pdf

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