According to Chief Executive Women (CEW), seven years of data indicates that women are “undeniably under-represented and incremental change is failing to solve the crisis”.
This week, CEW released its seventh Senior Executive Census, which tracks the annual progress of women’s representation in the executive leadership teams of Australia’s top companies.
Namely, the 2023 census revealed that 91 per cent of ASX 300 company CEOs are men, with 82 per cent of CEO pipeline roles also being held by men.
Meanwhile, only 23 per cent of ASX 300 companies had gender-balanced leadership teams, while 28 companies had no women in their executive leadership teams.
At the current rate of change, CEW noted in its report that it could take up to 50 years to reach gender parity in CEO roles in the ASX 200. However, this was still an improvement from last year’s data, which revealed that it would take 100 years.
While deemed an “incremental” change from the year prior, women’s representation in CEO pipeline roles increased by 3 per cent, in addition to 26 women now holding the role of CEO in the ASX 300, compared to 18 in 2022.
The performance of the ASX 100 was also a key driver of the improvements on last year’s census, with all companies now having at least one woman in their executive leadership teams.
“These statistics illustrate some progress, particularly in larger companies with gender targets in place, however, the pace of change is slow across corporate Australia despite the continued push to increase women’s involvement in leadership positions,” CEW said in a statement issued this week.
Moreover, the body called on Australian companies to set targets with “real accountability and transparency”.
“Companies with 40:40 or better gender targets are proven to be three times more likely to achieve gender balance than those without targets.”
Namely, gender balance and diversity targets were defined in the report as at least 40 per cent women, 40 per cent men, and 20 per cent any gender.
“CEW will also be calling on Australian companies to create CEO and leadership team pipelines that have an equal representation of men and women,” it added.
“With 8 in 10 CEO pipeline roles currently held by men, systems and structures need to be in place to ensure gender-balanced leadership, not just now but into the future.
“Finally, CEW is asking for ambitious leadership from Australian companies to build inclusive, flexible, and respectful workplaces that foster women leaders.”
At the ‘threshold for transformational change’
In response to the census, HESTA issued a statement on Wednesday underscoring its advocacy for “transformation in corporate Australia”.
HESTA chief executive Debby Blakey said the firm’s own 40:40 survey from last week showed that investors wanted to see clear targets for gender diversity strategies, in addition to transparent reporting mechanisms to accelerate workplace gender equality.
“CEW’s latest report further evidences HESTA’s view that gender balance in leadership is a strategically sound business choice,” Ms Blakey added.
“Evidence informs us that gender balance in business can foster improved performance, enhanced corporate governance, and increased profitability.
“For HESTA, this is critical in helping us in our aims of delivering long-term value and increased financial security in retirement for our 1 million-plus members.”
“Corporate Australia has been standing at the threshold of transformational change for some time, and HESTA believes the incremental pace of change needs to be faster,” she concluded.