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Women in the Boardroom

Affirmative action and gender balance at Boardroom level has been a topical issue for many years and brought to light recently by one of our clients – a global corporation with A&NZ operations.

[Originally published May 2015]

As a result, Options Consulting Group wants to share some interesting information with you. Overall, women make up nearly half of the total employment figures at 48.5% of 3,891,900 employees1 across all industries, however, they are more likely to be in lower management and part time employment. We want to identify women in leadership, focusing predominantly on the manufacturing sector, which is our specialised field. It is apparent from our research that women are underrepresented in the manufacturing industry in Australia.

In most manufacturing enterprises, women are more likely to be employed in administration and process manufacturing roles to front line Supervisor level rather than in the core area of business. Women have a more prominent representation in white-collar industry, yet struggle with numbers in blue-collar industry possibly stemming from gender stereotypes that influence educational decisions. While the increasing number of women participants in the workplace brings many benefits, the number of women dwindle as we climb the managerial ladder across all disciplines.

It is widely accepted that factors such as stereotypes are socialised from an early age, which in turn contributes to the occupational and educational choices. Research indicates there is a strong case for ensuring females are given more information about career choice and opportunities at school, with encouragement to consider careers in what have traditionally been thought of as ‘male roles’. These often require the study of science, engineering, technology, and mathematics.

The Australian Financial Review2 published research showing a national decline in the number of females studying math and science in high school. Just 6.6% of females sat for advanced mathematics in 2013, half the rate for males and a 23% decline since 2004. In NSW only 1.5% of females undertake advanced maths, physics and chemistry. Research also shows a higher percentage of women graduating from universities than men, however, following this, there is a gradual decline in the workforce leadership ladder in comparison to men4 as seen in the graph below.

Further research into gender trends for the manufacturing industry, shows there is an obvious lack of female presence, with this gender only occupying 26.6% of the 371,937 current employees1.


Men have a strong presence in management positions within the manufacturing industry, as they hold 95.1% of CEO/ head of business occupations in Australia1. Women occupy more than half of the non-management positions, especially in administrative and personnel service roles. The only sector of manufacturing that women feature more than men is textile, leather, clothing and footwear manufacturing and there is also a higher percentage (76.6%) of women working part-time in this industry1.
On the professional platform of LinkedIn, we identified that from the 28,105 active Australian members represented across 3,342 companies in the manufacturing space, only 10% of these members are female. OCG approached a number of global companies represented in the Australian manufacturing industry to find out whether they have policies and/or programs specifically tailored to enhance female promotion to the Executive and Boardroom level.

Bostik Australia Pty Ltd provided us with information about the streams of work coupled with gender in this respected manufacturing corporation; balancing gender is not a priority, hiring is purely based on merit and “best fit” for each brief. Anita Jardine, Human Resources Manager in Australian Operations, is the only woman to reach an executive management position in the history of Bostik Australia. The next level is beginning to get female representation but is still a struggle due to the lack of industry interest from females – out of 150 production jobs, there are only 3 filled by women.
On top of Anita’s career achievements, she is an active member of Business Chicks, an ever growing network conducting programs and events to reward and recognise women in the workplace, connecting people for support, sharing ideas and motivation ideals. Dow Chemical (Australia) is an active contributor to Champions of Change; a collective leadership group composed of males to elevate the issue of gender equality nationally and internationally.
Another organisation working toward the promotion of women in non-traditional roles is National Association of Women in

Operations (NAWO). They aim to keep women excited about operations, retain women in positions and the industry, and develop support for women through tough times.
In summary, it would appear that women in leadership make up no more than 20% of the executive workforce in manufacturing. Workplace Gender Equality Agency3 does provide us with online reports/ surveys/ data which is available on their website. If you would like more detailed information about this topic, it makes for some very interesting reading.
OCG actively supports gender diversity and equal gender representation in the Boardroom & Executive management level, however, in our experience we have found the success in achieving this outcome is largely influenced by the following factors:

1. Company structure and size
2. Employers willingness to invest in tailored skills and personal development programs to enhance promotional prospects for women
3. Willingness of women to accept the challenge of moving into “non-traditional” roles

Over 25 years of service to Australian manufacturing the general approach adopted by OCG is to present the candidates best-suited for each role, actively encourage our clients to consider all contributing factors influencing the hiring decision and not have gender bias cloud the decision making process. Would you like to contribute to our conversation? Join our forum on LinkedIn, Women in the Boardroom – Leadership.


1 WGEA Data Explorer: Gender Composition. (2013-2014). Workplace Gender Equality Agency. Retrieved from:
2 Pilling, R. (2014, July 1). Decline in Science Students a Danger to the Economy. The Australian Financial Review. Retrieved from: https://www.afr. com/news/policy/education/decline-in-science-students-a-danger-to-the-economy-20140701-jgqso
3 Public Reports. Workplace Gender Equality Agency. Retrieved from:
4 McKinsey, Women Matter: An Asian Perspective (June 2012); WGEA, 2012 Australian Census of Women in Leadership; Graduate Careers Australia, Australian Graduate Survey 2012