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IWD 2022: Only 6% of CEO roles in Top 300 firms are held by women

Top D&I thought leaders head up our free series of events for IWD 2022

IWD - blog hi res

The campaign theme for the United Nations IWD 2022 is Gender Equality Towards a Sustainable Future. However, many picked up the action-oriented #BreakTheBias used by a commercial entity. Often hidden, bias is blamed for keeping women on the lower rungs of the corporate ladder.

Every day of March 7-11, the week of International Women’s Day (IWD), Growth Faculty was host to free live virtual events with top experts to help leaders become more aware and inclusive. It was an entertaining 5-day series with a serious message - business leaders are holding back talented emerging leaders who happen to be women. If you need convincing something needs to be done, read these leadership facts: 

7 shameful women in leadership facts

·       A third of Australian boards still have no female directors. Only half a percent of boards have no male directors.

·       Australian women hold 15% of chair positions. Men hold 85%.

·       Women hold just 6% of CEO roles in the ASX300. 94% are held by men.

·       14% of line roles (profit and loss responsibility roles traditionally seen as the pipeline for CEO) are held by women. 86% are held by men.

·       Australian women make up 33% of key management personnel. Men make up 67%.

·       During the pandemic there has been a 2% per year increase in the proportion of women on ASX 200 boards.

·       Experiments have shown women who initiate pay negotiations are judged more harshly by men for doing so. Men say they are significantly less willing to work with such women.

Don’t Be Too Polite, Girls

Growth Faculty's events for IWD2022 included an interview with Wendy McCarthy AO on her new memoir Don’t Be Too Polite, Girls. After 50 years at the leading edge of feminism and corporate life, Wendy shared her story and survival tips. McCarthy currently is Deputy-Chair of Goodstart Early Learning, a non-executive director of IMF Bentham, the world’s most experienced and successful litigation funder, patron of the Sydney Women’s Fund, ambassador for 1 Million Women, and advisor to Grace Papers.

Global leader to speak

Founder and Secretary General of the Council of Women World Leaders Laura Liswood will speak about her soon-to-be-released book The Elephant and the Mouse, bringing her extensive expertise on diversity and inclusion to the table. Laura is also the author of Women World Leaders, The Loudest Duck, and Serving Them Right.

The Council of Women World Leaders is composed of 72 women presidents, prime ministers, and heads of government, and the only organisation in the world dedicated to women heads of state and government.

How To Be An Inclusive Leader

Also during our series of free events March 7-11, delegates heard a keynote address from Jennifer Brown, internationally renowned inclusivity consultant and author of How to Be an Inclusive Leader and Beyond Diversity. It was a practical session on the journey to create an inclusive workplace where everyone is welcomed, valued, respected, and heard.

Power: A Women’s Guide to Living

Another free live virtual event was an interview with Kemi Nekvapil, author of Power: A Women’s Guide to Living, Leading Without Apology and The Gift of Asking. Having studied leadership and purpose at The Gross National Happiness Centre in Bhutan, Kemi is a wellness consultant and international speaker who has trained with Brené Brown as a Dare to Lead ™ Facilitator. She works primarily with women in leadership to unblock the obstacles that would prevent value based leadership.

Male Panel

We will wrap up our 5-day series of free, live virtual events with a panel made up of male champions of change, including Nick Hockley, CEO of Cricket Australia. Leadership in Australia is predominately male, so the issue of gender equality is, by necessity, an issue for men in Australia's executive teams.

A human right

There is much to discuss, not the least of which is that gender equality is a human right, and Goal #5 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 


Graphic: UN Sustainable Development Goals ‘wedding cake’, Stockholm Resilience Centre

Less adaptive if there's bias

Businesses won’t succeed and society won’t thrive without gender equality. A bias culture that lacks diversity may be less adaptive, creative, and flexible than is required for the new age. Conversely there is huge upside to promoting women to leadership positions. They are shown to be highly qualified, effective, emotionally intelligent, productive, keen to learn and develop, and great for a company’s bottom line. According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s director Libby Lyons, an increase of 10 percentage points or more in female representation on boards leads to a 4.9% increase in company market value – this equates to about AUD $78.5 million.

Bias is a villian amongst many

“This bias just grinds away at [women’s] confidence, which then affects their competence, and, at some point, attacks their performance." - Indra Nooyi.

Bias is among “hundreds of issues – some tiny and difficult to pinpoint and some huge and structural” says former PepsiCo CEO and Chair Indra Nooyi, who says she was on the top rung of the ‘women’s ladder’, a steeper, more slippery ladder than that climbed by men. Her book My Life in Full credits the many male leaders who did help her up the steeper ladder. Australian leadership could take heed.

100 years to wait

If we do not tackle gender inequality, a century will pass before corporate Australia promotes women into leadership positions in significant numbers. Companies and leaders around the world need to make a concerted effort to master the A.B.C.s. of breaking bias:

·  Admit it – We are human, biases are there.

·  Block it – Redesign the system (ie. anonymise resumes).

·  Count it – Set specific numeric targets… (many companies are setting goals of 40% female, 40% male, 20% flexible).

·  Support it – Champion diversity and inclusion. Our free week of events will show you how.

Checklist for leaders

Growth Faculty’s access to global thought leaders offers new frameworks and insights to the growing call for change. Inspired by IWD 2022’s theme #breakthebias we’ve compiled a checklist to help company executives and boards self-assess how they’re supporting women leadership in 2022. Download our checklist now.

Finally, if you'd like to increase your professional and personal development why not consider becoming a Leadership Pass Holder with Growth Faculty? Unlimited access to 40 live virtual masterclasses and Global Headliner virtual events - PLUS year-round leadership content at On Demand with videos, podcasts and book summaries. Join a community of knowledge seekers who are inspired by the best. Access $7500+ value for just $398 AUD. See what's included.

References and further reading:

Gender Workplace Statistics At a Glance, 2021, and Gender Equity Insights 2020, BCEC WGEA Gender Equity Series

M. Donald 2019, Leading and Managing Change in the Age of Disruption and Artificial Intelligence.

 J. Zinger 3 Reasons To Recruit And Select More Female Leaders, Forbes

Inclusify by Dr Stefanie Johnson

S.Hardacre and E. Subašić, 2018, Whose Issue Is It Anyway? The Effects of Leader Gender and Equality Message Framing on Men’s and Women’s Mobilization Toward Workplace Gender Equality, Frontiers in Psychology. 

K. Evans, 2018, ‘Barriers to women in senior leadership in Australian corporations- A Thesis’, Charles Sturt University

 Indra Nooyi, My Life in Full

McKinsey & Co, 2021, Women in the Workplace

CEW Senior Executive Census 2021 

Creating Pathways to the Board for Women, 2021, AICD

Fitzsimmons, T.W., Yates, M.S. & Callan, V.J. (2021). Towards Board Gender Parity: Lessons from the Past - Directions for the Future. Brisbane: University of Queensland Business School.

Australian Government, 2020 Employment Market Projections to 2025, Labour Market Information Portal.

Global Gender Gap Report 2021, World Economic Forum

Graphic: UN Sustainable Development Goals ‘wedding cake’, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Wikipedia


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