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Corporate equality coming - in 2085

Date

Melissa Stanger

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Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly is one of the few women to hold a senior leadership position in corporate Australia.

Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly is one of the few women to hold a senior leadership position in corporate Australia. Photo: Nic Walker

It will take more than 70 years for there to be the same number of women as men in leadership roles, a new US study forecasts.

At the current rate of growth, this number will not be on par until the year 2085, according to a new study by the Women's College at the University of Denver in conjunction with the White House Project.

Although women consistently outperform their male counterparts, they're not being recognised for senior leadership positions as often as men. 

The study says that although women consistently outperform their male counterparts, they're not being recognised for senior leadership positions as often as men.

"The reasons have to do with unconscious bias, the persistence of exclusionary networks and opportunities, and work-family barriers," Deborah Rhode, director of the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession told The Daily Beast website. "While we've made enormous progress in encouraging women to assume traditional men's roles, we haven't made comparable progress in encouraging men to take on traditional women's roles.

"You still find men much less likely to take time out of the workforce to assume primary responsibility for child care, elder care and dealing with emergencies. Even high-achieving women are still assuming the major responsibility in the home for family, and that limits their progress in the world outside the family."

We asked Tiffani Lennon, Chair of the Law & Society Deparecortment at the Women's College and research lead on the study, how she and her team arrived at this date.

“The research organisation Catalyst assessed that for women on boards, it will be about 73 years to be on par with men, and I looked at that and began to calculate, not just women on business boards and in Fortune 500 companies, but across all sectors,” Lennon says. “This is assuming that everything stays the same and the growth in women's leadership continues along the same track that it's been for 30 years. So I took that 30-year trend and I applied those trends in the future. And it's pretty much true across the board, and in some cases, that's pretty conservative.”

Lennon hopes that the study empowers and ignites people to speed up the rate of growth of women in leadership roles. She says one step in the right direction is to "ensure that your [company's] promotional practices are based upon performance", as opposed to more subjective measures.

"Everybody wins. And quite frankly, I think we would see a tremendous jump in women leaders since the data shows that women are outperforming men."

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138 comments

  • "While we've made enormous progress in encouraging women to assume traditional men's roles, we haven't made comparable progress in encouraging men to take on traditional women's roles."

    Really. Lot of women plumbers, are there? Carpenters? Low-level IT workers? How many male nurses? Teachers? Receptionists? I didn't see any mention of that in this study of 'equality'. Or, like pretty much every single study like this we ever hear about, is 'equality' code for 'women in senior business leadership positions'?

    I have no idea, because I never see any stories about other studies done on those other kinds of jobs, It's only ever about women in boardrooms and in Management. Do those studies exist and not get reported? Or does nobody care to find out?

    Why doesn't any research seem to focus on the places where equality really matters - in the day-to-day, blue/low-level white-collar jobs that the vast majority of us are a part of? If 50% of the 12 people on the Board are women, but 2% of the 10,000 global IT staff, how is that equality?

    It's almost enough to give credence to those extremists who keep ranting about how feminism is really all about creating a female-dominated society. The number of women in positions of power isn't the most important criteria in defining equality, but it seems to be the only one anyone ever researches and the definition people use for determining our progress toward an equitable society.

    Commenter
    DM
    Date and time
    December 12, 2012, 2:30PM
    • Some good points there DM. Have you ever thought though, of the influence that making change from the top down has on young women entering the workforce? The more often that successful women are seen in positions of power or in non-traditional roles, the bigger the trickle down effect until it becomes the norm. We need more female leaders to pave the way.

      Commenter
      Cher
      Location
      Melb
      Date and time
      December 12, 2012, 5:18PM
    • I don't get this whole women inequality thing. There is legislation that makes it illegal to discriminate. There must be some other reason. I think women need to stop talking about it and just get on with it. Nobody cares!

      Commenter
      Gaz
      Location
      Yarrawonga
      Date and time
      December 13, 2012, 7:51AM
    • But that's the point, Cher - we don't 'know' that, because there don't seem to have been studies done,or at least not ones that get any attention. It's just something we assume because it seems like 'common sense', which is completely unhelpful.

      Commenter
      DM
      Date and time
      December 13, 2012, 9:36AM
    • DM, a family member of mine is looking to get out of her role as an electrician as she has had enough of having to put up with being leered at, groped, and being exposed to pictures of naked women every time she needs to use the bathroom. Why would any woman want to put up with that every day?

      Gaz, yes there is a law. However, you try walking in my shoes and trying to even find permanent employment as a woman of child bearing age. Children are not on my radar, but I know they are on the minds of my prospective employers. I would love to 'get on with it' and be able to work full time and buy a house, but I am never offered permanency. But of course there is a law against them asking, so they just assume.
      A man with the same experience of the same age will always be given the position.

      Commenter
      Frustrated
      Location
      Bris
      Date and time
      December 13, 2012, 4:02PM
    • Frustrated - exactly, that's what needs to be studied. If she worked for a massive franchise of electricians, changing Board members would likely have almost no impact on the issues she faces at the ground leve. that's where people suffer real abuse, sexism and discrimination, and that's where the focus on research and effort needs to go.

      Commenter
      DM
      Date and time
      December 13, 2012, 4:33PM
    • @DM Your points are ridiculously one sided. Women want to be plumbers as much as men want to be wiping granny's bum, but I dont see you acknowledging that particular vocation, or that fact that job is often unpaid. I am yet to see an unpaid plumber.

      Commenter
      Rachael
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      December 13, 2012, 6:48PM
    • As is your interpretation of my point, Rachael. I suspect deliberately so. I am not talking about pay levels, nor am I talking about how 'pleasant' the job is.

      I am talking about the fact that the only criteria for measuring equality in these studies, or at least the reporting of them, seems to be the number of women in positions of business power. And when this is being used as evidence for enforcing gender quotas in jobs , but only (apparently) in the boardroom, I feel it's important to ask exactly why equality only seems to matter at the point end of our power structures. I would like to see some evidence that forcing equal gender ratios through legislation is actually going to assist equality, rather than breed resentment.

      Commenter
      DM
      Date and time
      December 14, 2012, 9:36AM
    • @Gaz - I'm sure you're old enough to understand that there are laws against child abuse but it still happens. There are laws against stealing but it still happens. There are even laws against driving your car over a certain speed limit, but guess what?! It still happens!

      Commenter
      far out what is the average IQ here
      Date and time
      December 14, 2012, 11:10AM
    • @DM Women want equal access to opportunities via flexible work arrangements and affordable, accessible childcare. If we are worthy of high powered roles then we expect to be judged for that role on merit. Same as any other job. We dont need quotas and we dont want quotas. Harbouring resentment because some women are more suited to higher power roles than you are is ingrained sexism and exactly what women are standing against. I might weld more power than you, get over it. Your quotas argument is a smokescreen for a sexist attitude of feeling entitled to opportunities above and before women. Look up merit in the dictionary, it doesnt mention penis anywhere.

      Commenter
      Rachael
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      December 14, 2012, 2:24PM

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