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Fifty percent of the world’s talent

Fifty percent of the world's talent

by Joseph Tesvic

My whole life I have been surrounded by smart, creative, funny and strong women—at school, at work and socially. In my immediate circle, my wife, Amanda, and my mother, Lynda, are strong and independent women, who continue to teach me a lot. Amanda and I now also share the privilege of guiding and supporting our young daughter, Claire, who we hope will have all the choices in the world for her career when the time comes.

Against that backdrop, it’s clear there is so much more we can be doing to get closer to a 50/50 balance between men and women in Operations careers globally. Today, the gap is still too big. A new McKinsey Global Institute research—The Power of Parity: Asia Pacific—finds that if Australia were to match the progress that faster-improving economies are now making on these issues, it could add nearly $300 billion a year to its GDP, or 12 per cent, by 2025.

The only way to make real change happen is to strike out and be bold, both for our clients and ourselves at McKinsey.

First, supportive practices. Take a look at the work published by the Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, to which McKinsey Partner Jenny Cermak made an amazing contribution: identifying an evidence-based list of the top 10 practices that can make a real difference. Across industries, we should all be considering how these drivers of change can be embraced in our organizations.

Build a strong case for change

Second, to make a real difference, firmer rules should be considered. Our own research indicates that organizations that achieve the best results on parity adopt a mix of both supportive approaches and rigorous practices, such as adopting blinded CV/résumé screening while setting explicit targets for recruitment and advancement (and, even more importantly, sticking to them).

Success breeds success. In some of geographies, it’s a question of critical mass. Potential women recruits ask very fair questions about our diversity; if they see enough women on the inside, they become more likely to join. This means that retention and advancement of women will lead to a virtuous cycle in recruitment.

Within McKinsey and in the Operations practice, we are not immune to the challenges. As a leader in McKinsey’s Operations practice in Asia (together with my co-convener, Karel Eloot, we have embraced the important role leaders must play to make change happen.

My personal experience reinforces the statistics we know well—I have personally come across situations, particularly in heavy industries such as mining and oil and gas, where management teams are predominantly older males. It can result in a difficult environment for any young consultant, but especially for women to work and thrive in. Though I’ve seen little conscious bias, the little things can make a culture less inclusive—from chatter that focusses on traditionally ‘blokey’ things to after-work get-togethers at the rural pub.

I am encouraged by efforts from McKinsey colleagues who are stepping up to build supportive communities, such as McKinsey’s Asia Women of Steel group, convened by Jennifer Davies and Christina Wang. With initiatives like this, women and men can share stories, tactics, and build their support networks.

More-flexible work programs are also a bright spot for all our people. Many organizations, including McKinsey, are creating part-time opportunities that provide adaptable structures for mums and dads. We’re also building specific learning programs focused on creating the right environment where everyone can excel, with training on avoiding unconscious bias now a standard part of our curriculum.

It’s my hope that these types of initiatives, while just a start, will begin to help make meaningful change in women throughout the world of Operations, and beyond.