Understanding motivational drivers is key to bridging the leadership gender gap

According to a new study released today for International Women’s Day by SEEK, Australia’s number one employment marketplace, over 65 per cent of Australia’s workforce would like to see more women in leadership roles. In addition, almost half of working women would like to pursue a leadership role in the future, validating the strong desire for women to participate equally in leadership positions. 

SEEK interviewed working Australians1 to understand the different drivers between men and women in relation to applying for and taking on leadership roles. The research revealed marked differences in attitudes towards leadership roles between men and women. SEEK hopes that the study will help businesses understand how to create a more inclusive workplace that will ensure gender balance in leadership positions across all levels.  

“Understanding the drivers and motivations of the entire workforce is an essential step towards building a more inclusive workplace that caters for the needs and aspirations of everyone,” says Kathleen McCudden, SEEK Group HR Director. 

Women show appetite for leadership

A gender imbalance in leadership roles still exists, with 60% of those in leadership roles being male, however, the desire to take on leadership roles is comparable across genders with 50% of men and 48% of women wanting to pursue a leadership role in the future.
Rewards of leadership differ by gender 

The SEEK study also revealed marked differences in what attracts men and women to a leadership role. 

Table 1: Top three attractions to leadership roles by gender

“What this research tells us is that beyond salary, there are very different drivers in the value women ascribe to leadership roles, compared to men. This provides insight about how businesses can position and advertise roles so they are attracting both men and women to apply for leadership roles,” says Ms McCudden at SEEK.

Views on leadership
The research also highlights that men and women differ in their beliefs about the qualities that make a good leader. 

  • 25% of men feel that ‘being disciplined’ was a key quality of a good leader, but only 8% of women agree
  • Women are more likely to value ‘emotional intelligence’ than men, with 19% of women considering this a key attribute in a good leader, compared to just 11% of men

Motivations for staying or moving roles

To support men and women in leadership roles, the research indicates that they will look for different things to remain engaged and feel supported.

  • Whilst ‘work-life balance’ is important to both genders, it is of more importance to women (39%) than it is to men (27%)
  • ‘Salary/compensation’ is more of a motivating force for men (32 %) to stay in a job than women (21%)
  • Women are over three times more likely to have left their last job due to a change in their family situation (7%), compared to men (2%)

“The research shows women’s career choices are influenced to a greater degree by their family and home commitments than men. Recognising this, businesses can look to structure roles so they are more accessible and sustainable for men and women including those in leadership roles to adapt their work life to cater for family commitments. Whether that’s offering flexible working hours, provision to work from home, or just having a less rigid working environment to allow for the best solution to suit each employee,” says McCudden. 

By listening to and understanding the different drivers and motivators of the entire workforce, employers can learn how to implement practical strategies to promote gender equality in all organisations across Australia.

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1 AU Source: Independent research conducted by Perspicacious on behalf of SEEK. Interviewing 4800 Australians annually.