Australian companies shun women

2003

Sexism remains entrenched in Australian workplaces, with women holding fewer than one in ten executive management positions and almost half of Australia's top 200 public companies having no female executives at all.

Australia’s Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) says that women have made virtually no progress in the past year and that stereotyped attitudes and a “blokey" corporate culture are as rife as ever.

The 2003 Australian Census of Women in Leadership shows that the number of women executive managers in Australia has increased by an almost imperceptible 0.4 per cent in 2002 to 8.8 per cent, equating to five additional female managers over the course of the year.

Three of the country’s top ten companies - the National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank and Telstra - have no female senior executives whatsoever.

The number of women board directors increased by 0.2 per cent to 8.4 per cent while only half of companies have any female directors.

More than eight out of ten US companies have female executive managers compared to only half of those in Australia. Likewise, women fill almost one in seven executive roles in the US compared to fewer than one in ten in Australia.

The picture in line management roles is even worse, with a mere 4.7 per cent of roles held by women.

“There just isn’t enough strategic focus within Australia addressing the issue of advancing women within the company,’ said EOWA director Fiona Krautil.

"One look at the corner office or the board room will reveal how women are not reaching the upper echelons of the organisation; this is a problem that time is clearly not going to fix!"

"The new information on the small number of women holding line positions should serve as a wake-up call to business leaders about the under-representation of women in the feeder-pool to the top jobs” she added. “While we are glad to see some further improvement in this year’s results, the rate of progress is still snail-like and small compared to the US."

Last year, the EOWA said that Australia lagged 10 to 15 years behind the USA in terms of diversity and slammed Australia’s “blokey" corporate culture and stereotyped attitudes.

"Overseas managers will tell you in Australia the sexual innuendo in this country is much worse," she said. "In my experience, American managers are much more comfortable working with women as equals than Australian managers."