Why aren’t there more female Australian leaders?

By Harry Allan

Diversity is key in managing business risk, closing the gap has never been more important against a backdrop of global economic and political uncertainty, according to Nicole Bradley, Diversity Leader, Grant Thornton Australia.

Men and women see and respond to risk very differently, making diversity among senior leadership imperative to managing business risk; yet: "Global study finds Australia at 23 percent, behind the global average of 25 percent, when it comes to women holding senior leadership roles," she says. "At just 3 percent, following five years of decline, Australia has slipped well below the global average of 12 percent when it comes to the role of the female CEO.

"But it’s not all doom and gloom, outperforming the global average, the number of organisations with no women in senior leadership roles is actually decreasing in Australia." 

“Progress on gender diversity is still too slow. Government, businesses and individuals need to be more diligent in addressing the systemic issues that hinder progress,” said Ms Bradley.

While the global proportion of senior business roles held by women has hit a high of 25 percent, Australia continues to stagnate and fall behind at just 23 percent,

As the old saying goes, to stand still is to fall behind, our annual survey shows that Australia hasn’t seen a progressive increase in the number of senior roles held by women.

While most acknowledge the business case for gender diversity, corporate Australia is grappling with why it’s still an issue and can’t seem to smash the glass ceiling. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom for the Australian corporate landscape. We’re far better at decreasing the number of organisations with no women in senior leadership roles than our global peers.

“Since 2013, Australia has shown a decline in the number of organisations with no women in senior leadership roles, dropping from 33 percent in 2013 to 20 percent in 2017, while the global average has stalled around 33 percent over the same period,” said Ms Bradley.

“Corporate Australia seem to be implementing a number of initiatives that appear to be having some impact, but more can be done collectively to start moving the top line figure for women in senior leadership positions.”

“Our firm set a new industry standard for paid parental leave last year; offering 26 weeks paid leave to primary carers. Accessible to both men and women within our organisation; it seeks to encourage workforce participation and allow our people to achieve both personal and work goals.”

“We also disrupted the market by offering an innovative leave option; allowing those in the organisation for more than two years the ability to unlock an additional week’s annual leave each year from their long service leave.

“All the roles within our organisation are flexible, leaving our people to develop working arrangements that suit the needs of our clients, their team and our firm, while allowing them to balance work and personal commitments.”

“Our initiatives are open to all our people, providing a culture where it is accepted for both parents to balance family commitments.”

“We’re working hard to develop learning and development programs that will ensure diversity among our future and current leaders.”

There is a lot organisations can do to support an inclusive work environment.

Download a copy of the latest Grant Thornton report, Women in Business 2017: New perspectives on risk and reward.

Business Review Australia's March issue is now live. 

Follow @BizReviewAU and @MrNLon on Twitter. 

Business Review Australia is also on Facebook.


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