Some good news…but are women still prey in a male kingdom?

Australia’s gender equality scorecard was released today by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. Some relatively good news on the pay-equity front and in relation to flexible working, but no progress in relation to the number of women in board and top leadership roles.
According to the WEGA data, female representation on boards remains static at 24.9% across the 11,000+ reporting employers. This is reflected in the AICD’s quarterly Gender Diversity Progress Report showing that at the end of August there were 25.4% female directors across the ASX 200 – only marginally above the 25.3% achieved by the end of 2016.

In terms of leadership, there are just 11 female CEOs on the ASX 200.  In September, the 2017 Chief Executive Women ASX 200 Senior Executive Census confirmed that men still hold 79 per cent of roles in ASX 200 executive leadership and 41 of the nation's largest companies don't have a woman on their executive leadership team. Yet governments at all levels continue to track at 40% and higher. Perhaps it's something to do with setting and announcing targets & quotas?
This mirrors recent analysis by the respected UK-based Cranfield School of Management, which shows that the proportion of women on FTSE boards holding the most influential non-executive positions, such as chairman and senior independent director, is just 8%, compared with 6% a decade ago. 
So, while the percentage of women holding FTSE 100 non-executive (NED) positions is at an all-time high of 33% (well above Australia), women are out-gunned and outplayed when it comes to senior or independent director or chair positions. In the UK, the percentage of women holding executive directorships (CEO equivalent roles) remains low at just under 10% on the FTSE 100 and under 8% of FTSE 250.
Another article that came across my desk this week was in the AFR - reproduced from The New York Times - which looked at why women in corporate America rarely get the top job. The journalist spoke to the women who were in the running to become No. 1, but didn't quite make it and had to stop at No. 2.  What their stories show is that in business, as in politics, women who aspire to power evoke far more resistance, both overt and subtle, than they expected would be the case by now.

One executive woman who was outmanouevred during a restructure, despite achieving stellar results, drew an unwelcome conclusion. "Women are prey," she said. "They can smell it in the water, that women are not going to play the same game. Those men think, 'If I kick her, she's not going to kick back, but the men will. So I'll go after her.' It's keeping women in their place. I truly believe that."

A timely reminder that we must not become complacent about gender equity - there is still much to achieve.

WEGA Report Highlights on Pay Equity

  • Surge in employer progress on pay equity, manager KPIs for gender equality, flexible work
  • Pay gaps slowly declining year on year –down to 22.4% from 23.1% in 2015-16
  • Employers analysing their pay data for gender pay gaps increased nearly 11 percentage points in a year to 37.7%
  • Organisations with pay equity objectives in their remuneration policy or strategy have doubled from 18.0% to 36.3% since 2013-14.
  • 68.3% of employers have a policy or strategy for flexible work, up 5.4 percentage points from 2015-16
  • …however every industry, occupation and manager category has a full-time gender pay gap in favour of men

WGEA 2016-2017 Data Snapshot

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