Female leader concerns despite triumphs of ASX 200

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It’s easy to be dazzled by the stats – there have been encouraging improvements in the number of female directorships of ASX 200 companies, but those trends are not reflected at smaller companies throughout Australia.

According to the Diversity Council Australia (DCA) chief, much more needs to be done to address the lack of leadership in the broader business community. “It is encouraging to see that progress has been made in increasing the number of female directors in ASX 200 companies. However, it is quite disturbing to see the lack of female representation amongst directors in the wider group of ASX 500 companies and some sectors are really lagging behind,” Nareen Young commented.

There is a plethora of evidence to support the benefits of addressing the underutilisation of female talent, both for organisations and for the wider economy. To Young, Australian leaders still have a long way to go and need to keep the pressure on.

The latest stats show the number of ASX 200 directorships held by women increased substantially in the past year for the first time since the census was first conducted in 2002. An improvement to 12.3% overall was an increase of 46.4% since 2010. More broadly though, women hold 9.2% of ASX 500 directorships and there are still only six female chairs in the ASX 200 (compared to five in 2010) and a total of 13 in the ASX 500.

“The small number of female executives and women in line management positions is even more alarming for future trends given these roles are usually the pathway to the CEO level,” Young said.

So what’s causing the trend?

Organisations continue to source talent from the same small pool of women rather than casting the net more widely. The DCA said a starting point is for Australian boardrooms to better reflect the country’s diverse communities in the workforce, namely in terms of age, care-giving status, class, cultural identity, disability and sexuality, as well as gender.

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