Evidence shows organisations make smarter business decisions, are more innovative, and act more responsibly when they can demonstrate gender diversity across their leadership teams.
“The value of bringing women into an organisation is that they can apply a gender lens to policies and practices. An organisation’s practices may look the same for everyone, but affect men and women very differently,” says Research Professor in Human Resource Management at UniSA, Professor Carol Kulik.
“The bottom line is if you have diversity, you have a higher performing organisation in the long run – workplace flexibility rises, gender pay gaps narrow, and employee productivity increases.”
The opportunity to progress into a leadership position in a traditionally male-dominated sector inspired Devita Pathi to study an MBA after welcoming her first child.
The full-time working mother, who was working in a senior role at the Department of Defence at the time, applied for a Women in MBA (WiMBA) Scholarship at the University of South Australia.
The WiMBA Scholarship is awarded to women who are nominated and supported by their employer to undertake UniSA’s Master of Business Administration (MBA), consistently recognised and respected globally for excellence.
“I was looking to broaden my career opportunities and the ability to study under a scholarship while on maternity leave made it feasible,” Pathi said.
“I chose UniSA for several reasons, but mainly the reputation of the degree, the quality and the flexible delivery, and the fact it was based in Adelaide so I could easily switch between face-to-face and online classes.
“UniSA also gives MBA students the unique opportunity to study the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) Company Directors Course as part of their degree, which really interested me and enabled me to successfully join three organisations as a non-executive director on their boards.”
The scholarship offers experienced female professionals the chance to earn an MBA, while also championing them to succeed across senior leadership roles and continue to foster gender diversity at the top.
“Having the scholarship supported me to finish the MBA in two years, which I did with two children under the age of two,” Pathi said.
Prof Kulik has also seen new trends emerging since COVID-19 and the working from home model which continues to be in practice across many workplaces today.
“What we saw during these times was that women had much more responsibility than men for home duties and remote learning, while also holding down full-time careers on top of that.”
Pathi agrees with Prof Kulik and said that having a young family was one of the hurdles she faced working in a typically male-dominated industry such as defence.
“Since COVID-19, we have been working remotely from home and the continued flexibility has been key for me in being able to balance work and family life.
“My direct supervisor has been very supportive in my working conditions, including letting me take my youngest to online meetings when I’ve needed to, where they sit on my lap.”
The Chief of Defence’s Science Engagement and Impact Division, Dr David Kershaw, champions this philosophy by increasing opportunities for female leaders within his team.
“We make this discussion visible in the workplace and seek to monitor and track gender quality in everything we do – be this from family friendly meeting times and flexible working arrangements through to conference participation and recruitment processes,” Dr Kershaw said.
With this support, the scholarship also enabled Pathi to progress her career in Defence.
After completing her studies at UniSA, Pathi was promoted to the role of Director of National Partnerships within the Defence Science and Technology Group in September, where she leads a team that is responsible for Defence’s collaboration, and partners with Australian industry and universities to produce technological outcomes that enhance Australian Defence capability.
“Devita is the first Defence professional to participate in the WiMBA program at UniSA. I was very happy to support her application and am pleased she has advanced to a key leadership position within my Division,” Dr Kershaw said.
“I feel qualified to do this role thanks to UniSA’s MBA, and I’m excited that I’ve been successful in such a challenging position, all while having a very young family,” adds Pathi.
What does the research tell us?
In Australia, the sector-specific statistics for professional services are worrisome. While we have nearly equal numbers of men and women in the legal profession, women constitute only 25-26 per cent of partners in Australian law firms. Finance and insurance services remains the industry with the highest gender pay gap at 28 per cent, or $45,497 per year. Only 12 per cent of engineers working in Australia are women, and the number of women choosing engineering degrees in Australian universities has been declining since 2014. With so much evidence of gender inequity, it will only become more difficult to attract women to male-dominated occupations.
Champion leadership diversity in your organisation and further your unstoppable career by learning more about UniSA’s award-winning MBA and scholarship opportunities or register for UniSA’s next MBA Information Session to find out more.