Women still missing from executive leadership line roles in 126 major Australian companies

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For years we’ve been celebrating the painstakingly slow shift in the number of women on the boards of ASX 200 companies.

While 13 such boards still do not have a single woman, many are now cracking the 30% female board director mark thanks to sustained, public pressure.

But the story’s much different when it comes to the number of women in executive teams.

In 2017, 126 of Australia’s biggest listed companies do not have women in the line roles of their executive leadership teams, according to new research released by Chief Executive Women today, based on online research conducted in August 2017.

CEW also finds that 41 ASX 200 companies have no women in their executive leadership teams, with men holding 79% of all such positions across the ASX 200. Only 16 ASX 200 companies have executive leadership teams that are more than 40% female.

That’s just 8% hitting the 40% mark — a mark commonly used as the measure that indicates gender balance.

Still, incredibly, that’s a significant improvement. CEW president Kathryn Fagg says there are now twice as many women in leadership roles, when compared to figures collected by the the previous version of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency in 2008.

She noted that the number of ASX 200 companies with no women in their executive leaderships teams has more than halved from 46% in 2008, to 20% in 2017.

It’s the women missing from line roles that’s particularly concerning, with CEW finding 126 companies still unable to appoint women to these key positions driving commercial outcomes and usually involving profit and loss accountability. CEW says such roles are the “traditional pipeline” for future ASX 200 chief executives.

That’s a big problem. The proportion of women holding chief executive positions in such companies is absolutely dire, at just 5%. It’s a figure that will drop when Kerrie Mather steps down as the chief executive of Sydney Airports in the near future. And a figure that will drop drastically again with any further such resignations.

Can you guess where women actually do better in key ASX 200 positions?

In certain functional roles, such as HR, where women hold 75% of such positions, corporate affairs (52%) and legal (40%).

However, strategy is one functional area that women still can’t crack in significant numbers, with men holding 85% of all such roles.

It’s clearly time for a new strategy.

ASX 200 companies women

Major stats to note from the CEW report on the ASX 200 include:

• Forty-one ASX 200 companies have no women in their senior executive leadership teams;

• One hundred and twenty-six companies have no women in line roles on their executive leadership teams;

• Ninety-five percent of chief executive positions are held by men;

• Women make up just 15% of chief operating officer roles and 13% of group executive roles;

• Women hold 75% of key HR positions, 52% of corporate affairs, 40% of legal and 33% of sales and marketing;

• Just 9% of chief financial officers are female;

• Women hold 21% of key IT positions;

• Women make up 15% of strategy positions;

• Companies with no women in their executive leadership teams include Seven West Media, James Hardie, Woodside Petroleum, Evolution Mining and many more; and

• Companies that have cracked the 40% mark on women in executive leadership roles include Commonwealth Bank, Telstra, AMP, Suncorp, Caltex, Perpetual, Premier Investments, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Nine Entertainment, EstiaHealth, G8 Education Limited, Tatts Group, Viva Energy, Sigma Healthcare, Tabcorp Holdings and Northern Star Resources.

This is an edited version of an article that was first published by Women’s Agenda.