Once again, workplace equality is in the news.
Our first female Governor-General entered the debate this week with the release of the 2012 Australian Census of Women in Leadership.
Speaking at the launch of the Census by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA), Quentin Bryce noted that while we’ve come a long way in advancing women in leadership roles since she first started out in the 1960s, more work needs to be done.
The 2012 Census reveals:
- A decade of negligible change for females in executive ranks
- Women comprise 9.2% of executives in the ASX 500
- Only 12 ASX 500 companies have female CEOs
- Women hold 12.3% of directorships in the ASX 200 but only 9.2% in the ASX 500
This comes at a time when the Workplace Gender Equality Act passes the Federal Parliament, which legislates for equal pay between men and women, requires larger companies to report on gender equality and provides for flexibility in work arrangements for either parent responsible for care.
So where are the women?
Are women really absent from leadership roles or is our understanding of women’s progress being distorted by focusing on ASX500 companies?
We all know you can have a great career without working for, or being a Director of, an ASX500 company. Entrepreneurship provides a great way to lead and innovate, while providing a degree of flexibility, where required, for family and caring responsibilities. Working within Australia’s many small and medium-sized businesses also affords women valuable business education and career paths that are rewarding and fulfilling with the bureaucracy and limitations sometimes presented by large organisations..
We also need to consider that women are starting small businesses at twice the rate of men. There are thousands of women successfully running their own businesses, serving on advisory committees or boards and making a contribution to advancing women through networks and mentoring.
Do we risk negating women’s advancement in so many areas of business and entrepreneurship by focusing on the top end of town?
What are your thoughts? (Please leave your comments below.)