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Slow progress on female bosses

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Australian companies are still failing to promote women into senior management positions, prompting calls for quotas and executive bonuses tied to increasing the number of females in top jobs.

The latest census of women in leadership roles, to be released on Tuesday, found that while the number of female directors has increased there had been ''negligible change'' in women at senior management level - 9.7 per cent compared to 8 per cent in 2010.

The number of female directors at the 200 largest listed companies increased from 8.4 per cent in 2010 to 12.3 per cent.

But most of these are non-executive roles - fewer than 1 per cent of executive directors in Australia are female. The census does not include appointments made since April 2012.

''We have been conducting the census for 10 years and, frankly, you would expect to see more progress,'' the director of the government's Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, Helen Conway, said. Ms Conway also suggested managers be held to account and remunerated to meet gender diversity targets.

Within the pipeline of Australians heading for senior leadership roles there are 2148 men compared to just 141 women. This puts Australia decades behind comparable economies, according to the agency.

A survey by the Australian Institute of Company Directors found the number of companies without any female directors dropped from 52 per cent in 2010 to 38 per cent. It found 39 women were appointed to boards in 2012, compared to 68 appointments in 2011.

But when boards do hire women they keep dipping into the same talent pool - nearly a quarter of female directors hold multiple directorships, compared to just 14.3 per cent of men. There are 15 women who sit on at least three boards.

While 61.5 per cent of companies have at least one woman, this may not be enough to have effective female influence. Female directors are treated more seriously and have more impact if there are at least three on a board, according to the agency. But just 3 per cent of companies had three female directors at April 2012.

Non-executive director on three boards, Sylvia Falzon, says change must start at the board level.

''People have got to have the mind-set asking why, when certain positions become available within an organisation and we get the short-list, why are we not getting enough female representation?''

Women often felt there was an expectation they had to ''tick all the boxes'' when they saw senior positions or directorships advertised, but Ms Falzon said she did not believe organisations expected individual candidates to tick every box.

The largest companies in Australia have appointed more women to their boards than smaller companies. However there is one company in the top 20 that still has no women on its board and just one female in its executive team, the head of external relations - Fortescue.

A spokeswoman said 23 per cent of Fortescue’s staff is female and 13 per cent of its managers are female.

‘‘Fortescue chairman Andrew Forrest said at the company’s recent AGM that Fortescue was looking to diversify the board with the appointment of a woman in the future,’’ she said.

There was no specific date given for when that would take place.

210 comments

  • The notion that women should be promoted to make up the numbers is absurd.
    The reality is that women are possibly over-represented on boards in government owned corps in an attempt to meet the requirements of the above article.

    The proportion of females in executive positions is roughly the same as the proportion of females with "soft skill" careers.
    81% of barristers are male, 70% of CPAs, 89.5% of engineers.
    When the proportion of women with the necessary skills and experience is equal things will be different.

    Commenter
    M.
    Date and time
    November 27, 2012, 6:47AM
    • You do not need to be a lawyer, an accountant or an engineer to be a leader. Women have the skills to make up equal representation in the high levels of business. What they lack is the culture and flexibility to confidently sit there. Board positions are part time roles, hence we see an increase in female representation. As the culture continues to change like this, participation from women will continue to rise. Suggesting that most women have "soft skills" only, is a perpetuation of the notion that women are less skilled, less qualified and less capable. That idea is ridiculous. Your post is extremely sexist and offensive.

      Commenter
      Rachael
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 8:32AM
    • +1

      When women start doing the right degrees (economics, finance, accounting, engineering, law) that companies actually need and spend decades working non-stop showing a commitment to improving a company's profitability and develop their internal and external networks then maybe we'll start seeing more women on boards as represenation of putting in the ground-work necessary to get them there and earn the position.

      Whining about there not being enough women on boards shows an astounding level of entitlement.

      Commenter
      Bender
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 8:35AM
    • Companies hire the correct person for the job and if that is a man or woman then so be it. Whinging and complaining that there isn't a fair share is ridiculous. If a man is refused a position because he is a man then that is discrimination.

      Commenter
      matt
      Location
      syd
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 8:58AM
    • Well it only took the second comment to mention the sexist word its pretty obvious what this forum is going to descend into

      Bye now

      Commenter
      Davo
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 9:17AM
    • Ummmm... maybe because many women have KIDS and the male cannot??? - Hence heavily reducing the prospect of WANTING to go for management positions. Let's face it - management is not all that it's cracked up to be. This nation is becoming a dummy state. Most hair salons I have been to are owned by women and they make more money than ANY manager I have ever met!!! Maybe the non-management women are smarter than us men. Why do I work 50hr weeks for average pay, when I could own a single salon and rake in $150K + $20K tax free cash???

      Commenter
      Liberator
      Location
      SEQLD
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 9:20AM
    • The banks have been promoting women as fast as they can to change the gender ratio for senior managment and executives. They have been ditching men to reach their targets. Its led to some very odd behaviour (but thats another story associated with quotas). This was based on targets set by Gail Kelly, Cameron Clyne & co. I'm amazed how this wasn't picked up in this survey.

      Commenter
      Cut the BS
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 9:22AM
    • Davo - grab some popcorn this is only going to get better.

      Commenter
      matt
      Location
      syd
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 9:27AM
    • +1. Do some real work. This is just communism and deeply insulting to those of us who've done the hard stuff.

      Commenter
      George
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 9:37AM
    • +2

      Your never going to be the CEO of a company with a degree in marketing or a qualification in hairdressing.

      Commenter
      Let's make sandwiches
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 9:49AM

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