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Women on Boards but Not in Leadership Pipeline


27 November 2012 at 9:40 am
Staff Reporter
It’s been revealed that the numbers of women at the upper levels of corporate Australia are so low that it will take decades before women achieve any meaningful representation, unless organisations adopt a more disciplined approach and set targets at leadership and management levels.

Staff Reporter | 27 November 2012 at 9:40 am


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Women on Boards but Not in Leadership Pipeline
27 November 2012 at 9:40 am

It’s been revealed that the numbers of women at the upper levels of corporate Australia are so low that it will take decades before women achieve any meaningful representation, unless organisations adopt a more disciplined approach and set targets at leadership and management levels.

The Director of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA), Helen Conway, released the 2012 Australian Census of Women in Leadership in Sydney.

The Census reveals that two thirds of ASX 500 companies have no female executives, and only 12 have a female CEO.

Disappointingly, Australia has the lowest percentage of female executives compared to countries with similar governance structures.

"We’ve been conducting the Census for 10 years and, frankly, you’d expect to see more progress," Conway said.

"Companies have failed to develop and maintain a strong pipeline of female talent, and you can see this in the negligible growth in female executive management.

"For the first time, the Census shows a significant increase in the number of women on boards, with 61.5% of ASX 200 companies having at least one female director.

"I welcome that women are finding their way onto some boards, but the number of women in senior management has increased only marginally. People are ticking the box at the board level but they’re not applying the same standards to management.

"Even when it comes to boards, the number of women is still very small. Less than one in 10 directorships across the ASX 500 companies are held by women. This should challenge companies to examine their gender equality record."

Her sentiments were backed by Mike Smith, the chief executive of ANZ.

"While most leaders have long finished arguing the business case, the progression of women into senior leadership positions has stalled and more radical approaches are now required," Smith said. 

"The biggest gains will occur when more businesses not only set and report on targets but also take the time to understand what is needed and take direct action to ensure more women thrive and advance in our workplaces. This is not just about addressing equality, it actually makes good business sense and those organisations that take action will reap the economic benefits of a more productive workforce." 

Conway said: "Employers should adopt the ASX Corporate Governance Council’s recommendations to set meaningful objectives for achieving gender diversity by setting targets for women at leadership and management levels. Managers should be also held to account – and remunerated – for delivering results against these targets, and ensure that women aren’t left on the sidelines."

"The new Workplace Gender Equality Act will enable the Agency to establish industry based benchmarks which companies can use to set their own gender equality targets.

"In addition, the Act will give shareholders access to reports lodged with the Agency which investors can use to assess the gender performance of companies."

Other Census findings

  • Women are under-represented in the pipeline to senior leadership, especially in crucial line management roles. Men hold 2,148 line positions in the ASX 500; women hold 141 line positions.
  • Female directors are more likely than male directors to hold multiple directorships: 23.3% of female directors of ASX 500 companies hold more than one directorship, compared to 14.3% of male directors.
  • Pharmaceutical biotech and life sciences, consumer services, transportation, diversified financials, and retailing are the top five industries in the ASX 500 for female executive appointments (ranging from 14.1% to 22.2%).
  • Consumer durables and apparel, utilities, capital goods, energy, and materials (dominated by mining) are the five worst performing industries in the ASX 500 for female executive appointments (ranging from zero to 6.4%).

A copy of the 2012 Australian Census of Women in Leadership, a video and summary of findings, are available at www.eowa.gov.au



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