Women in business.

A group of Australia’s most senior business executives have added their voices to the call to redress the gender disparity in the Australian board and management ranks – some calling on the Federal government, which has only one female cabinet member, to lead by example.

Commonwealth Bank chief executive Ian Narev said: “All of us that have senior teams with under 50 per cent women will (be asked) why is there not more. The government is in the same category.”

Woolworths chief, Grant O’Brien said: “I think the reaction from the people to the cabinet shows the community thinking has moved too. I think there was surprise that there was only one and I think that’s a positive thing.”

The captains of industry suggested that advancing women in business or government required having a pipeline of candidates.

The group called Male Champions of Change includes the chief executives of Telstra, the ANZ, the Commonwealth Bank, Qantas and Woolworths. They have placed targets on achieving greater representation of women at the upper echelons of their institutions.

The push by the corporate heavy hitters cements a similar move announced by the Business Council of Australia earlier this week to increase to 50 per cent the number of women in senior management roles in Australia over the next decade.

Over the past 20 years the advancement of women into senior ranks and board positions has been glacial. They hold only 16.4 per cent of board positions and 3.5 per cent of chief executive posts.

Where the BCA advocates more prescriptive measures to push board and management improvement – like testing for unconscious gender bias – the Male Champions of Change has released a more practical “how to” report to achieve similar outcomes.

The report, released yesterday, includes asking management throughout an organisation to answer the question – if recruitment and advancement is not reaching target of 50 per cent, then why not?

This criteria was employed successfully by the ASX a few years ago in relation to female membership on boards of listed companies.

The report suggests organisations should “celebrate parenthood and unambiguously encourage return. Stay in touch with parental leavers and make the transition easy.”

Source: Elizabeth Knight, Brisbanetimes


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