THE JOINT’S DESTROYING US
First impressions are not always what they seem.
To an outsider, Australia appears to be a modern progressive nation with a female Prime Minister, Governor-General, and Lord Mayor of its biggest city.
But a snapshot of the private sector sharpens the focus: We are not destroying the joint; the joint is destroying us.
Image by Unknown Artist – The Australian War Memorial (ARTV01060), via Historic Houses Trust.
For the first time, the Australian Census of Women in Leadership, conducted by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, has looked beyond the ASX 200 companies to those in the top 500.
The results are nothing short of appalling.
Two thirds of ASX 500 companies have no female executives.
I don’t often resort to capitalisation but I feel the need to write that again:
NO FEMALE EXECUTIVES.
Only 12 have a woman as CEO.
Australia has the lowest percentage of female executives compared with countries of a similar governance structure.
“The progress has been just hopeless,” according to EOWA Director, Helen Conway (pictured below right, image via BRW). “I don’t think people have taken this seriously.”
Ms. Conway says companies have shown “little discipline” in achieving voluntary targets.“The Sword of Damocles is hanging on the issue of quotas,” she says. “If we’re not seeing reasonable change by 2015/16… it would be hard to hold back the tide.”
I have been a vocal supporter of mandatory quotas for women both on boards and within senior management.
Still, the seven countries which have adopted this approach show varying levels of success. Women occupy 40 percent of board positions in Norway, but just 25 percent of management posts.
We need to unblock the pipeline for women, from the bottom up.
“We’ve firstly got a problem with female workplace participation,” Ms. Conway says.
Her answer is a root and branch review of childcare, including an inquiry by the productivity commission.
“Until you have men and women able to access flexible work arrangements without disadvantage to advancement, you are not going to get workplace equality.”
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