Key takeaways from Women in Leadership Breakfast 2019

Over 100 women in retail leadership roles came together on Wednesday for Inside Retail’s annual Women in Leadership Breakfast to share their experiences in the workplace, the challenges they face and how they are working to be diverse leaders in the industry.

Lord Mayor of Melbourne Sally Capp opened the breakfast event by sharing how important retailers are to Melbourne’s identity as the shopping capital of Australia, and she urged those in the room to continue pushing their businesses to grow, despite the challenges of keeping up with quickly changing trends.

Kelly Jamieson, managing director of Edible Blooms, Angela Langmann, general manager of Amazon Fashion Australia, Stephen Younane, chief executive of Retail Prodigy Group and Nike Australia, and Kate Box, head of retail ANZ at Facebook and Instagram, spoke on a panel moderated by Karen James, chief executive of Business of Development.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the panel:

It starts at home

Much of the discussion revolved around changes that businesses can make internally to better support women in the workplace and create more flexible work cultures, with Facebook’s Kate Box explaining that the social media business has introduced four months of paternity leave to allow male employees to take time off after the birth of a child.

This enables men and women to more equally share the load of parenting, and enables women to remain in the workforce should they choose.

“I don’t think [women] can play a protagonist role and lead if you’re not also celebrating men playing a bigger role at home,” Box said.

“I think having that celebrated both within an organisation, and in a society, is where we still have a lot of work to do.”

Attracting the right talent

One simple change Amazon has made to recruit more women into roles is to use more neutral language in its job descriptions. It started using a tool that identifies unconscious bias after finding that its job ads included overly masculine terms that were turning women off.

“What we found specifically when I was recruiting for the team to launch the [Amazon Australia] website, [was] that 75 per cent of the people that were applying for the jobs were men,” Langmann explained.

“The language we were putting into our job descriptions just weren’t appealing to women. So, now we have a mechanism in place where every job description is put through software that can detect when words are too female, or too male.”

By making this change, Amazon has been able to attract a more diverse group of candidates, and attract more women into roles that were once dominated by men.

The retailer also offers a program that helps women find mentors within the business, allowing those who wish to progress in a certain area the opportunity to learn from someone who is knowledgeable and willing to help.

“I think it’s really important that we lead by example,” Langmann said.

More takeaways from the event will be included in a report published in the coming weeks.

The breakfast was sponsored by Facebook, and supported by the City of Melbourne, Victorian State Government and Melbourne Fashion Festival as part of Retail Week 2019.

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