Australia still in the dark ages for women

Nov 27 2002 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Australia’s “blokey" corporate culture has hampered its ability to compete on the global stage and leads to much greater discrimination against women executives than their counterparts in the US.

Research by Australia’s Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) found that the glass ceiling in Australian companies remains an daunting barrier for female executives.

The EOWA’s Australian Census of Women Executive Managers, released on November 26, found that 53 per cent of Australia's Top 200 companies have no women in executive management positions.

In contrast, only 14 per cent of major US firms have no female executives.

Overall, Australian women hold 8.4 per cent of senior positions, compared with 15.7 per cent in the US.

Just two of Australia's Top 200 corporations have a female CEO, and only eight per cent of the board seats in those companies are filled by women.

The best performing sectors for women managers were software & IT services, banks, telecommunications, insurance and retailing. The worst were real estate, transportation, food, beverage & tobacco, hotels, restaurants & leisure, and energy.

EOWA director Fiona Krautil said Australia's male-dominated corporate culture shocks overseas executives who took up jobs here.

"Unfortunately the results show we are lagging 10 to 15 years behind the Fortune 500 companies in the US," Ms Krautil said.

"We are going to have to fix this if Australian business is going to be able to retain its competitiveness in the 21st century."

Elizabeth Proust, managing director of ANZ subsidiary Esanda, said a lack of women in senior positions was a major impediment to Australian business.

She said women provided a different perspective to decision-making and added creativity to boardrooms filled with middle-aged men.

"Australia's business culture is not necessarily a place that welcomes diversity," Ms Proust said, “and I don't think it's getting any better."

Margot Cairnes, founder and Chairman of Australian Management consultancy The Change Dynamic, blamed the country’s recent corporate collapses such as the airline Ansett, One.Tel and insurance company HIH on the "boys' club" mentality.

"That kind of culture, where everyone has gone to the same school or through the same MBA course . . . leads to a table full of nodding heads," she said.

"There are no fresh perspectives and no dissenting voices pointing out the giant icebergs ahead."

For further information, contact Nicole Parsons, EOWA Media Adviser on (02) 9448 8516 or visit