Breaking through the glass ceiling

New research from the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) shows the number of women on corporate boards and in top management positions has fallen.

The survey shows that about 10 per cent of executive managers in Australia’s top 200 companies are women.

That is down from 12 per cent in 2006.

EOWA’s Director, Anna McPhee says that when only half of ASX200 companies have at least one woman in the executive management team compared to 85 per cent in the United States, it is critical for Australian businesses to question their recruitment, promotion and talent development practices, from entry level to the executive floor.

Disappointingly, the 2008 Census reveals that across all indicators, the proportion of women to men on corporate boards and in executive leadership roles has declined since 2006. On these measures, Australia has now fallen behind the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and South Africa.

Some interesting statistics from the survey include:

  • women chair only four boards and hold only 8.3 per cent of board directorships, down from 8.7 per cent in 2006.
  • women hold four CEO positions and only 10.7 per cent of executive management positions were held by women in 2008, compared to 12 per cent in 2006.
  • women hold only 5.9 per cent of senior line management positions that have profit and loss or direct client service accountability, suggesting that these types of roles, which are considered core to business performance, remain out of reach for many women.
  • The 2008 result compares with 14.8 per cent in the 2007 United States Census of Fortune 500 companies; 14.3 per cent in the 2008 Census of JSE-listed companies in South Africa; 11.0 per cent in the 2007 UK FTSE 100; 10.2 per cent reported in 2007 for publicly traded companies in the Canadian FP500; and 8.7 per cent in the 2008 Census of the NZSX Top 100.
  • 49 per cent of ASX200 companies have at least one woman Board Director. This is almost unchanged from 50 per cent in 2006, 50.3 per cent in 2004 and 51.5 per cent in 2003, however the overall trend is slightly downwards. In the United States the comparable figure is 88.2 per cent, in South Africa 62.4 per cent, in Canada 52.8 per cent, in New Zealand 40 per cent and the UK 76 per cent.
  • Industry groups with the highest percentage of women board directors were insurance, retailing, banks, consumer services, consumer durables, apparel, and telecommunications services.
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