The presence and status of women in paid employment has improved dramatically over the last half century. However, the progression of professional women into positions of leadership has been slow. Within Australia, women currently represent 12 percent of ASX200 executive managers. Five women have been appointed to chief executive level in ASX200 companies since 2004. The number of women holding chief executive positions (or equivalent) in the public and tertiary sectors is more promising. Nevertheless, women find it more difficult to rise to positions of leadership in environments that are highly male-dominated, irrespective of the sector of employment.
There is a strong business case for enhancing the contribution of executive women to the achievement of organisational objectives.There is a parallel ethical, public good and humanitarian case for the participation of women at executive level. Rising social expectations for equal opportunity can no longer be ignored. Significant change will require a committed leadership focus to the economic and broader performance dividend that can be achieved by attracting and retaining quality women managers and optimising the contribution of women in management.Over the last decade, an increasingly tight and globally competitive labour market has seen the business community make genuine efforts to promote and retain women. A number of Australia's leading organisations have adopted globally recognised strategies to facilitate gender diversity within their workforces.While the focus of this study is gender diversity, many of the issues the study raises relate to dynamics in the wider domain, which result in the exclusion of certain groups from benefits afforded to the dominant culture.This study was undertaken by Dr Hannah Piterman and initiated through a number of conversations with Geoff Allen, Fergus Ryan and a number of senior executive men and women who agreed to support the study financially and who formed the steering committee. The objective of the study is to explore unconscious and subtle inhibitors to the positive experience and full utilisation of women in executive and management positions. The analysis considers the powerful organisational elements that shape the experiences of women in corporate Australia. The findings will contribute to a wider appreciation of implicit barriers to women's career development and retention, and help organisations engage with the diversity agenda in Australia.
This report on qualitative research developed and conducted by HPCG (Hannah Piterman Consulting Group). The Australian Government Office for Women was involved in the research on a consultative basis as part of the research Reference Group. Financial assistance for the research was provided by the Australian Government Office for Women and several other private, public and tertiary agencies.