The survey found that just 14% of the female workforce was at this level of seniority, compared to more than a quarter of men.
However, this is not representative of the national workforce – women comprise 45.9% of all employees in Australia.
While the survey found that discrimination, bias and stereotypical attitudes towards women are ever-present, the research revealed that a third of women prefer to work for a male boss.
The reasons given for the preference included the stereotypical view that men are “less emotional”, “less moody” and “less political”.
“We are seeing a growing trend towards clients using quota systems to try and rectify this imbalance,” said Ieuan Williams, director at Marks Sattin. “This could be the way forward – ensuring women make it to the top level will allow both men and women to see the benefits of female managers, overcoming the dated stereotypes of women in positions of power. Given that many studies have found an improved gender balance on executive boards can have a direct and positive affect on a company’s bottom line, there is not only an ethical reason to address this, but a financial one too.”
Grant Thornton’s latest International Business Report found that the proportion of business leaders who support the idea of quotas rose from 37% in 2013 to 45% in 2014.
However, Marks Sattin found that while many see quotas as necessary to open up opportunities for women, some women are made to feel like “tokens” within their organisation because of them.
Many of the survey’s respondents saw flexible working options as a key method of retaining female employees – but although 64% of HR managers said they offer this benefit, a mere 31% of employees indicated awareness of it.
Respondents deemed the following strategies as the most effective strategies for retaining female employees:
- Allow flexibility to manage work and family
- Provide “return to work” skill upgrade programs
- Create a family friendly work culture
- Ensure pay transparency
- Quotas to increase women in senior management positions
- Profiling senior women in leadership as role models
- Networks and forums allowing fellow women in leadership to support one another
Lisa Annese, CEO of Diversity Council Australia (DCA), recently told HC
that employers need to review their entire workplace culture if they truly want to achieve diversity.
“It’s clear that a diversity policy alone isn’t enough,” she said. “What’s really needed is for organisations to properly resource and support their diversity function, as well as develop a comprehensive strategy with clear objectives and accountabilities. By striving for diversity, employers are implementing a culture change. This isn’t easy – asking people to change behaviours that have previously rewarded them is tough, and requires strong leadership.”
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Men are twice as likely as their female counterparts to become CFOs or senior managers, according to new research conducted by Marks Sattin.