Corporate Australia remains slow to address the issue of gender equality among senior management, with new figures showing barely any change in the number of female CEOs since 2014.
New figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reveal that just one in six CEOs in the private sector are women.
And, more concerningly, this rate has barely lifted in recent years – the proportion of CEOs who are female was 16.5 per cent in the 2016-17 financial year, less than a 1 percentage point increase compared with three years earlier.
Despite this, ABS program manager Dean Bowley noted there has been more success in boosting the number of women in other leadership and decision-making positions.
“Over the same period, the proportion of female key management personnel, general managers and other executives increased by 3 percentage points with females now occupying around 30 per cent of these roles,” said Mr Bowley.
That has done little to shift the gender pay gap though, which has remained entrenched and unmoving for the past decade.
As of last year, the ABS found that 45 per cent of women have achieved a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education by the age of 30 – compared to just 32 per cent of men – but the median full-time starting salary sat $1,100 lower for women than men.
“The gender pay gap has remained stable over the last decade, with women earning 89 per cent of the earnings of men, taking into account the differences in working hours. Superannuation balances for women approaching retirement are 37 per cent lower than men,” Mr Bowley said.
Marianna Mood, managing director of recruitment agency Adecco Australia, suggested that more needs to be done to enable both genders to share family duties, which would help address imbalances in the workplace.
“Long-held assumptions about gender mean there is disparity in the types and quality of jobs available to women. Female workers disproportionately dominate the part-time workforce, driven by the fact that they still take the bulk of family commitments,” she said.
“Ninety-five per cent of primary parental leave is still taken by women, and this has the biggest long-term impact on careers. Better flexibility for both genders to share family duties, and routes to help women back to work would help the situation.”
According to Ms Mood, underemployment is more common among women than men, with women either overlooked or deterred from applying for roles in industries with a “masculine image”.
“To challenge this, businesses need to bring in tangible measures to ensure workplace equality, such as routing out harassment and ensuring unbiased recruitment policies. With these industries experiencing a skills gap, more women workers would give the sectors a significant boost,” Ms Mood said.
Women still earn less than men, and the figure hasn’t changed much in the past 10 years. Companies can encourage equal pay by regular pay gap analyses, supported by board-led initiatives that address any financial disparity.”
A US-study led by Boston Consulting Group suggested that start-ups led by women actually delivered higher returns than their male-led counterparts.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.