Just 5 per cent of CEOs in ASX200-listed companies are women

While the total workforce gender split is 55-45 male-female, at the senior level it's a dramatically different breakdown.

Workplace diversity

Boston Consulting Group found 30 per cent of senior managers are female, 22 per cent are represented on company boards, and just 5 per cent are CEOs. Source: SBS News

While the conversation about gender diversity in the workforce has stepped up in recent years, it seems not enough is being done about closing the gap, especially at senior levels.

Boston Consulting Group analysis found while there's a 55-45 male-female split in the total workforce that gap widens as we go up the ladder.

Only 30 per cent of senior managers are female, 22 per cent are represented on company boards, and just 5 per cent are CEOs of Australia's 200 largest ASX-listed companies.

Gender gap in senior management
Gender gap in senior management Source: Boston Consulting Group

There are currently nine female CEOs at ASX200 companies, but soon it will be eight when Deborah Thomas steps down from Ardent Leisure and is set to be replaced by a man.

The eight are Sydney Airport's Kerrie Mather, REA Group's Tracey Fellows, Mirvac Group's Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz, Coca-Cola Amatil's Alison Watkins, Harvey Norman's Katie Page, Blackmores' Christine Holgate, ​Virtus Health's Sue Channon and Genworth Mortgage Insurance Australia's Georgette Nicholas.

Ms Nicholas said Genworth has 33 per cent female representation on its board and 43 per cent in senior leadership - more than average.

"I think it shows that even though most companies like Genworth has strategies in place to address the promotion and leadership development of women, that it takes time - change takes time," she said.

"The experience that people bring because of their backgrounds is appreciated and valued and that helps with our decision making, it helps make it more robust and more vibrant.

"There's good debate many times but I think it again brings value to our shareholders and customers because we're debating and challenging our norms."

Workplace diversity
Anna Green, from Boston Consulting Group, wrote the report into gender diversity. Source: SBS News

While some businesses have initiatives targeting gender diversity, many aren't effective, and change needs to be driven from the top.

Boston Consulting Group's Anna Green, who wrote the report into gender diversity, has found that men and women have a different view of the obstacles and the degree of success of gender diversity.

"Women talk about retention and development of advancement being the most critical for them to be able to be successful and be senior in their organisation, and men talk about recruitment being the most important thing to get right and that is not the case," she said.

Which means fostering talent and promoting women from within the organisation is key to getting a gender balance within senior levels.

Ms Green says flexibility is just as important.

"But in most organisations, it is not perceived to be a viable enough alternative, and it is not visible enough so people need to see senior leaders and middle managers take on flexible models and doing that successfully," she said.

JetStar CEO Jayne Hrdlicka leads by example.

"So for me personally, that means making sure I'm talking about it, but making sure I'm really viable demonstrating how important it is to bring all of you to work and to talk about the things that matter to you, to talk about your personal life and to lead with flexibility as just as a fact of the way we do business," she said.

"So I regularly take my kids to school, I will go and take time out during the day to go to a soccer match or a school play and come back to work and I always talk about where I've been and what I've done."

Workplace diversity
JetStar CEO Jayne Hrdlicka Source: SBS News

Ms Hrdlicka says the 24-hour nature of the airline industry demands flexibility, but reviewing policies is also important.

"We're just about to roll out a new approach to rosters and our team members who have some of the toughest jobs in the organisation so they do have more input and influence and that is really an important thing for me," she said.

It's encouraging staff to stay within the organisation and rise up the ranks where 50 per cent of the operating business in the Qantas group are run by women.

Ms Hrdlicka is optimistic about change.

"I see recognition at the very top," she said. "You see it at organisations like Male Champions of Change, Australia's biggest companies are working really hard to improve the balance of their organisations."

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