ONE of Brisbane's top listed retailers has set a new target of 40 per cent representation of women in management by 2019. 

Super Retail Group (ASX:SUL), the company behind Super Cheap Auto, Rebel Sports and Ray's Outdoors, aims to increase diversity within the workplace as well as facilitate inclusion improvements more broadly across other industries.

Managing director and CEO Peter Birtles says generally women take on support roles and will veer into senior positions in areas including finance, HR, IT and corporate affairs.

But Birtles, who was appointed a Queensland Male Champion of Change - a group inspired by the formation of a similiar team created by former Human Rights Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, says we need to see more females in frontline operational roles.

"I think you get better decisions if you have different views and different ways of thinking about things," says Birtles.

"We are a customer-facing business, and when I look at our customers, half of our customers are females so we need to ensure we have a management team that is representative of our customer base.

"Generally if you look at society, society always benefits from diversity, so organisations will definitely benefit from diversity."

Super Retail Group has applied key areas of change to assist in boosting its number of females in management positions.

The organisation has ensured it attracts females with talent and capability to move on to senior positions. It also has implemented development programs to launch them into management roles and is open to flexible work hours.

"We need to look at the flexibility of working arrangements of women because sometimes the way an organisation works with the lack of flexibility means it is difficult for them to build their careers at the same time they are building a family," says Birtles.

"And, on that, for an organisation to fully embrace flexibility it not only needs to be about female workers but male workers as well - it needs to be totally embraced across the whole organisation."

Birtles recently took the stage at a LeadershipHQ Diversity Dinner Debate alongside CEO of City Smart, Megan Houghton, and CEO of CS Energy, Martin Moore.

Facilitated by LeadershipHQ founder Sonia McDonald (pictured right), the three business leaders discussed diversity and inclusion, noting that although it has been a hot topic for a number of years, little progress has taken place. 

Houghton gave insight based on her experience with corporate strategy and highlighted that organisations must first assess the cultural attitudes towards diversity and inclusion before they can implement change.

She added that there is also no glass ceiling when it comes to women in management positions.

"It's not that women can't make it to the top, they can, so there really isn't a glass ceiling," says Houghton.

"But it's a longer, harder climb, usually without firm support along the way - so what women face is more of a glass ladder, not a limited ceiling."

LeadershipHQ director Sonia McDonald says one of the main points that came out of the debate was that leaders need to be aware of an unconscious bias that comes with hiring and working with teams.

"We need to make leaders within organisations aware of the power of having people with diverse backgrounds, diverse experiences and teams with different generations," says McDonald.

"Teams with a gender balance have more diverse thinking and more innovation. By having more diversity in an organisation, it just makes more business sense."

Another area of interest was women with the necessary experience for management roles shying away from applying for senior positions due to confidence issues.

"Females need to feel like they can tick every box for a role but why would you want to tick every box because wouldn't you want to be challenged?" says McDonald.

Birtles agrees and says female leaders want to be totally confident that they can succeed in a role before they put themselves forward for it.

"Males are more likely to go 'yeah I can do it and I will be a success', even if they are 60 or 70 per cent ready for a role. They will still put themselves forward, whereas females need to be 100 per cent ready."

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