HomeLockedAustralian businesswomen, where are you?

Australian businesswomen, where are you?

There are almost no women sitting in executive boardrooms across Australia. Although the ASX recently announced plans to force companies to set targets for gender diversity, it seems Australian women are hitting their head on the glass ceiling more than ever before.

Women in Business ASXThe statistics are embarrassing and are only getting worse. In 2008, the ASX found that, in the country’s top-performing 200 companies, just over 10 percent of executive management positions are held by women, 51 percent had no female board directors, and you could count the number of female CEO’s on one hand (four to be exact).

Australia continues to lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to workplace gender equality, with fewer women actually making it to the top. In the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2009, Australia is equal first in the world for women’s educational levels, but 50th in terms of female workforce participation (we dropped 10 countries last year).

We have more women than ever before enrolling and graduating from uni. They start off with the same level of intelligence, commitment and expectations as men, yet hardly any are actually making it to the top.

Research shows a strong connection between women in leadership positions and strong business performance, with women often scoring better than men in most leadership parameters during feedback assessment (McKinsey & Company study, 2008). So theoretically, it seems, women should be well outperforming men in the corporate world. Which brings us to the obvious question: Are women culturally restricted to becoming corporate leaders?’

These studies suggest that, when it comes to perceptions of Australian women in the workplace, women are rating other women in high positions really well while men continue to rate women poorly. Unfortunately, the paradox here is that men are usually the ones making the decisions for women to enter leadership roles, and so the cycle continues.

I believe another problem with Australia is that the Tall Poppy Syndrome continues to be alive and well, especially amongst women in the workplace. Australians are particularly bad at accepting success. Women in particular don’t sell themselves well. They often sit back and wait for recognition and are less likely to put themselves and their ideas out there. Women really need to start believing in themselves and continue to promote and push themselves as leaders so others around them believe it too.

[Next: What about quotas?]