Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull & President Donald Trump celebrated with their business besties at a gala dinner in Washington DC this weekend.
Among the sea of suits and ties was just a handful of women. Out of the business leaders, there were five Andrews, four Mikes, two Glenns, two Gregs, two Toms and two Steves on the invite list.
But only four women made the cut. More businessmen named Andrew got the call up than women.
Between them, Australia and the United States invited fifty one business heads, meaning women were less than 8% of that guest list for the prestigious event.
Australia’s Ambassador Joe Hockey and his Embassy staff along with the Business Council of Australia handpicked the 26 Australian leaders. Apparently among them they could only come up with three worthy Australian women. (AMP’s Chairman Vanessa Wallace, Jennifer Wastacott from Business Council of Australia and Dr Stephanie Fahey the CEO of Austrade.)
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade lauded the event as “the largest and most significant delegation of business leaders in the US”. An intimate audience with key American decision makers – access not even money can buy. Choosing to overwhelmingly give this opportunity to male leaders further perpetuates inequality.
The Prime Minister’s Office, Australian Embassy and DFAT officials certainly ought to know better.
Australia’s diversity, our difference, our daring is what makes us great. It fosters technological genius like Tan Le’s company Emotiv, behemoth IPOs like Atlassian‘s and global online powerhouses like Jane Lu’s Showpo. To ignore the breadth of what we have to offer and to turn your back on showcasing it, does Australia a disservice.
But even if we put aside the Government’s duty to be inclusive – such an outdated attitude is simply bad business.
This McKinsey’s study found companies who commit to gender, racial and ethnic leadership diversity are more successful – they’re much more likely to have better financial returns.
Surely then diverse diplomatic conversations would be more productive? Should this not be the highest priority to ensure reaching optimum outcomes for everyone?
The Prime Minister gleefully posted a video of attendees comparing their brand of cowboy boots at the event. Another video on his instagram story had Donald Trump shaking hands with key Aussie leaders…but there was not a woman in sight.
The Australian Government and its agencies should be actively fighting against the boys’ club, not encouraging it. A tax payer funded event with such an astonishing lack of diversity is a disgrace.
The event was to mark 100 years of Aussie US mateship. So much has changed….and yet, so little is different.