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Little improvement for ASX200 female execs

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AAP

November 27 2012, 00:59AM

By Kylie Williams

SYDNEY, Nov 27 AAP - Australia lags behind Canada, New Zealand and South Africa with its percentage of female executives and there has been only a negligible improvement among the top 200 listed companies over the past decade.

Two-thirds of ASX 500 companies had no female executives and only 12 had a female chief executive, the 2012 Australian Census of Women in Leadership report showed.

The report was conducted by the federal department of Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace (EOWA) and the University of Technology Sydney's Centre for Corporate Governance.

The top paid female chief executives are Westpac's Gail Kelly ($9.59 million), Sydney Airport's Kerrie Mather ($3.4 million), GrainCorp's Alison Watkins ($2.86 million), Harvey Norman's Katie Page ($1.80 million) and Blackmores' Christine Holgate ($1.17 million).

Women hold just 9.7 per cent of executive key management positions in the ASX 200 up from eight per cent in 2010.

In the ASX 500 that drops to 9.2 per cent with no figures available for 2010.

The numbers were slightly better for women on boards, with 12.3 per cent for the ASX 200 but just 9.2 per cent for the ASX 500.

Female directors were more likely to hold multiple directorships than male directors, 23.3 per cent compared to 14.3 per cent.

"Disappointingly, Australia has the lowest percentage of female executives compared to countries with similar governance structures," EOWA director Helen Conway says.

These countries included Canada, with females comprising 14.1 per cent of executives, New Zealand with 19 per cent and South Africa with 21.6 per cent.

Ms Conway said the key to more women being appointed to executive positions started with more flexible workplaces for both genders and better access to childcare.

"We need to increase female workplace participation, and to do that we need to have a full suite of flexible work arrangements, flexible careers and affordable and reliable childcare for both men and women."

Ms Conway said Canada had increased its funding of childcare, which had resulted in increased female workforce participation.

She said employers needed to provide flexible workplace arrangements and to ensure they did not penalise staff by limiting their career advancement if they did use those arrangements.

The industries in the ASX200 with the biggest percentage of female executives were pharmaceutical and biotech, with 26.1 per cent and telecommunications with 18.8 per cent.

Those in the ASX200 with the lowest percentage of female executives were auto and consumer durable companies, which both had no women executives.

The EOWA advocates that companies adopt the ASX Corporate Governance Council's recommendations and set meaningful targets for the number of women at leadership and management levels.

Ms Conway said if the number of women in executive or board roles had not increased by 2015/16 then the EOWA would look at recommending mandatory quotas for the number of women in senior positions.

"If we're not getting recognisable change by 2015/16, I don't think we can hold back on calling for quotas," she said.