Australia’s Sexism Protests Create Momentum for Corporate Change

The uproar triggered by allegations of sexual assault in Australia’s parliament has fueled a push for change that is likely to be sustained, according to the head of the nation’s Women in Banking and Finance association.

“Women have found their voice,” Jen Dalitz, WiBF’s chief executive, told Bloomberg in an interview Friday. “I think that’s really going to translate into the workplace.”

Women last month secured nine more seats on boards of major companies included in the S&P/ASX 200 index, taking the percentage of female directorships to 32.9%. It’s a notable increase, though a 2020 report found Australia still trailed the global average for executives setting formal quantitative goals for diversity and inclusion outcomes.

WiBF’s corporate members represent large organizations including investment banks, fund managers, ASX-listed companies and government departments. Many of these are led by men.

“These guys are all mobilized around what we need to do to create opportunities for women, in a way that I’ve never seen before,” said Dalitz, who’s worked in the diversity area for more than a decade.

Australia’s corporate world has been rocked by its own sexual harassment allegations, including at financial giants AMP Ltd. and QBE Insurance Group Ltd.

Last month, tens of thousands of men and women took to the streets to demand change at the highest level of government, prompting a reshuffle of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Cabinet and the adoption of recommendations from the Australian Human Rights Commission.

“The Canberra bubble has burst around the way we’re treating women,” said Dalitz, adding that a key challenge now ensuring that there is a pipeline for creating opportunities for women.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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