In their own words
Women in leadership
"While we have seen a positive increase in the number of female directors, the number of female CEOs and executives has not similarly increased... women are [still] being excluded from roles that would position them in the pipeline to leadership.”
Helen Conway, Director of Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace 2012 Australian Census of Women in Leadership
2012 marks the tenth year of the Australian Census of Women in Leadership – a decade of measuring whether our listed companies include women in their board, executive and management teams. We are now at a point where corporate Australia is fully aware of the business imperative for advancing more women into leadership positions, with many organisations proactively working towards gender equity.
Yet, according to the 2012 Census, last year women still held less than 10% of executive positions in the ASX 200, and only 6% of line management positions. This is in contrast to the public sector, where, according to Ernst and Young’s Worldwide Index of Women as Public Sector Leaders 2012, 37% of leaders are women, giving Australia second place ranking1.
Even these public sector statistics are not as good as they might appear at first glance. Governments have had equal opportunity and affirmative action policies as well as meritorious appointment processes in place for many years and there is at least anecdotal evidence from women public sector leaders suggesting that the numbers of women in leadership roles are actually declining.
This report is based on interviews with 15 successful, female leaders. We asked them:
- What enables women to succeed?
- What blocks women’s careers?
- What can we do to help others replicate your success?
The fact that many of our interviewees either run their own companies, or work in the public or not-for-profit sectors, speaks volumes about the challenges faced by corporate Australia in attracting and retaining talented women.
Although their interviews don’t reveal a silver bullet for Australia’s lack of female board members, managers and executives, they do uncover common issues holding women back – such as the difficulty in sustaining flexible work practices, being able to access affordable quality childcare and being recognised for their skills and input, regardless of where and how they work.
None of these hurdles are insurmountable, but each will require companies, policy makers and women themselves to do some things differently – as this report explores.
We hope, in speaking the unvarnished truth, it will provoke some useful conversations and pragmatic rethinking of the way companies engage with talented women. We also hope it will inspire both women and men to speak out against the status quo, agitate for change and play their part in improving gender equity in Australian organisations.
1Worldwide Index of Women as Public Sector Leaders, Ernst & Young, 2012