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Among the CEOs of the nation’s top 200 companies, only six are women. Pathetic or ‘Just the way it is’?


The music you hear blaring from Australia’s boardrooms comes courtesy of James Brown: “It’s a Man’s World.”

Among the CEOs of the nation’s top 200 companies, only six are women, according to a recent survey. There are only five female chairwomen in those companies, and just 8 percent of key management positions held by women.

That strikes a sour note with Nareen Young, leader of Diversity Council Australia.

“Frankly, these figures are pathetic and we must do better,” Young said. “As it stands, Australia is simply wasting some of its best resources — talented women.”

What makes matters worse is that the numbers indicate things will not change soon. Key subordinate roles in those top companies, considered the immediate stepping stone to executive leadership, was bereft of woman, with only 4.1 percent holding such jobs.

The 2010 Australian Census of Women in Leadership was conducted by Macquarie University and released by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency.

“What is the point of educating the 55 percent of women who make up university graduates if they continue to be denied the top jobs?” Young said.

Australia now ranks below New Zealand, the UK, Canada, the United States and South Africa in percentage of women in the most senior positions.

Young said it was extremely disappointing that, after years of research showing female executives performed at least as well as men, they were still required to work longer hours for the same pay and in the end were being denied the topmost leadership positions.

“Everyone — educators, parents, politicians and corporate leaders — ought to be very concerned at the sorry state of affairs that Australia presents to the world in female corporate leadership,” Young said. “If we want to maintain a competitive edge, then we must use the best talent available and, quite simply, we are not doing it.“

Young applauded the recently approved Australian Stock Exchanges guidelines that require listed companies report on their gender diversity strategies and female representation.

“But reporting is only the first step. Companies need to stop talking and start taking real action,” Young said. “And that action should not just be limited to listed companies,“ Young said.

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