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Women in the Boardroom: An Update

In the past, Options Consulting Group has published information regarding the employment of women in leadership positions. With Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday, we felt it apt to revisit the topic and analyse whether or not there have been improvements since we last explored the issue in depth.

Our past report on women in the boardroom identified that only 4.9% of CEO/head of business operations positions in the Australian manufacturing industry were held by women, indicating a great underrepresentation. Conversely, women occupied more than half of the non-management positions, especially in administrative and personnel service roles. With the data and statistics utilised in our study compiled between 2012 to 2014, we felt more relevant data was needed to gain an accurate understanding of the state of women in the boardroom today.
As of June 2016, women comprised of 46.2% of all employees in Australia. As a proportion of all employees, 24.8% are women working full-time and 21.4% are women working part-time. The workforce participation rate for women is 59.3%, compared to 70.4% for men.
Whilst historically factors such as social stereotypes influenced occupational and educational choices, in general, educational levels for women have progressed immensely. Of all women aged 25-29, 39.6% have achieved a bachelor degree or above – compared to 30.4% of men of the same age bracket. The differential of those holding a Master’s Degree has also closed significantly, with 6.1% of men compared with 5.7% of women. Women are 130% more likely than men to study health, and 70% more likely so study society and culture. However men are 12 times more likely to study engineering (18% compared to 1.4%). What this shows is that whilst overall, educational attainment of women continues to improve, there still remains factors that are restricting more females from undertaking STEM degrees, which have traditionally – and evidently still remain – male dominated degrees and industries.
At the very top of the corporate world – amongst ASX200 companies – women are being appointed as directors at a faster rate than ever before. This now means that 23.6% of all directors of ASX 200 companies were female, at 31 May 2016, compared to 8.3% cent in the 2009 calendar year. During 2016, 42% of all director-level appointments on ASX200 boards were females, a figure evoking confidence in the progression being made. Whilst the figures do not necessarily represent perfection, they do represent a significant improvement, with 53 of the ASX200 companies having reached the goal of 30% female directors that the Australian Institute of Company Directors wanted all ASX200 companies to reach by 2018.
With regards to the manufacturing industry, 72.7% of all employees are men, with only 27.3% women, representing a minimal improvement on the prior rate of 26.6% female employees. Male full-time employees in the manufacturing industry outnumber female full-time employees by more than 4-to-1. The majority of female employees are still employed as clerical and administrative workers (27%) or labourers (20%), and the Textile and Clothing Manufacturing industry is still the only manufacturing-based industry boasting more female employees than males, with 70.6%. Only 9.5% of women in manufacturing were employed in professional roles, and 13% in management roles, indicating minimal improvement. It appears that within the manufacturing industry, the development of females in the industry, and particularly in professional or management roles, has been stagnant.
So what can we draw from our findings? The first thing to acknowledge, is that there have been considerable positive improvements since the last time we thoroughly investigated the issue. More women are attaining degrees, and more women have been moving into positions of leadership amongst organisations across Australia. However, in certain aspects, particularly amongst traditionally male-dominated industries or fields of education, progress is considerably slower – or even close to non-existent. In regards to how the world can continue to get more women into leadership positions, Yale University Managing Director identified, on behalf of the World Economic Forum, three tactics to achieve greater gender parity:

  • Women helping Women
  • Men helping Women
  • Women helping themselves

Her proposals do not require heavy analysis to make sense of the situation. The overwhelming message is, transparency, mentorship and basic humanitarian values have the power for women to occupy more positions of leadership. Bringing the fundamentals back into business, and showing concern for the development of employees in reaching their potential, may just be the most effective method for businesses as we strive for greater gender parity.
[1] ABS (2016), Labour Force, Australia, June 2016, cat. no. 6202.0 2
[2] ABS (2016), Gender Indicators, Australia, Feb 2016, cat. no. 4125.0
[3] ABS (2016), Education and Work, Australia, May 2016, cat. no. 6227.0
[4] AICD (2016), Number of women on ASX 200 boards rising steadily, June 2016
[5] MSA (2015), Women in the Manufacturing Industry, April 2015
[6] WEF (2016), 3 ways to get more women into leadership positions, March 2016