xi) Australian Situation

. The pay differential between men and women is increasing. In Australia it has gone from 18.3% to 18.8% in one year; in 2005 it was at 15% (Joanna Gray, 2015i). In the Australian private sector the gender pay gap is 22.4% and rising in the private sector (Fiona Smith, 2015c). While in the public sector it is 12.3% and falling. One of the reasons for the difference between the public and private sectors is that in corporate Australia, the approach to setting pay is individually arranged, ie a secretive process that clearly disadvantages women. In contrast, the pay rates in the public sector are standardised by collective agreements which account for around 90% of salary determinations; furthermore, with the grades and skills required to achieve these grades are widely known.

In Australia the Institute of Company Directors's aim to have 30% female representation on the ASX 200 boards by end of 2018.  As of September 2016, women were represented on around 24% of ASX 200 boards. This is a considerable improvement from 2009 when women comprised less than 10% of these directors (John Brogden, 2016).

Monoculture may feel more comfortable but you are more likely to result in group-thinking and reduce dynamic decision-making.

Research has shown the presence of around 30% is the tipping point, ie the critical mass is reached where there is a difference between having a seat at the table and having a voice at the table.

"...there are still issues of bias (conscious or otherwise) that stop women getting past the cottage-industry mentality. It's not just men's bias, but their own..."
Lynn Kraus as quoted by Claire Stewart et al 2016

"...women run 40% of all new companies registered in Australia and are fast becoming the critical part of the small business sector.  They now own 36% of Australian small to medium enterprises, which is nearly 50% increase since the 1990s..."
Connie McKeage 2016 as quoted by Claire Stewart et al 2016

. Some organisations are described as "pale, male and stale".

. There is a link between gender and paid work problems, ie

"...the efforts and skills of women are often invisible, marginalized through part-time hours and other flexible modes of work, or subject to indirect discrimination standards (long hours as a prerequisite for promotion and so on). The sum of these factors is that women's input is informally viewed as less serious man's. In the domestic sphere, of course, men continue to contribute far less than women whose unpaid and unrewarded labour keeps households going ..."

Catherine Fox, 2006e

Furthermore, part-time work continues to be equated with part-time commitment.

. Despite the trend towards the feminisation of some professions in Australia, males still dominate senior management. For example, there are equal numbers of men and women in the medical profession below the age of 30. Over the age of 60 years, however, males outnumber female doctors 6 to 1. Furthermore, there is still a gender divide between hard and soft professions. In the building and engineering professions, men outnumber women 10 to 1; in nursing women outnumber men 10 to 1; in business and information, male professionals still dominate whereas in health, education and social work, women dominate. But, even in these professions, women are not in dominant numbers in operational roles. They are in support roles and these areas are not the ones where chief executives are appointed. When looking at the top 100 companies in Australia, only 5% of women in these companies were in profit and loss roles, ie operational, while 95% were in the support roles such as human resources and legal positions. The operational roles are the preferred career paths to top management positions.

Furthermore, as claimed by Dianne Jacobs (2004), Australian statistics show the lack of women in senior decision-making positions, ie


% of women

ASX200 Chairs




ASX200 Board Directors


ASX200 Executive Managers


University Vice Chancellor


Federal & State Politicians


Managerial & Professional positions


Australian Labour Force



i) ASX200 refers to the top 200 publicly-listed companies in Australia

. There is a discrepancy between Australia and other countries, such as USA

"...58% of ASX 200 companies have at least one woman in an executive management position but in the US the figure is 86%. And women account for only 6.5% of executive positions in the Australian companies......compared with 9.9% in the US......an unflattering comparison holds for countries such as Canada and South Africa......the Australian women have 10.2% of executive management positions in the ASX 200 Australian companies compared with......14.7% in South Africa and 14% in Canada..."

Catherine Fox, 2004a

. If only one female director sits on the Board, she is generally treated differently than if there are several. If one only, the female feels she's been appointed because of gender and that her appointment is tokenism. However, if there are several, the male directors treat them as individuals and no longer assume that they represent all womenkind, ie

"...if you are one of some thing you are seen to represent that group. When there are three of you, it normalizes things..."

Lynn Ward as quoted by Sally Patten, 2013

The magical number appears to be 3 for females to be accepted and for men to change the way they communicate and behave.

Some female directors state that they become more forceful on a board dominated by men and have learnt to communicate differently, ie become more masculine by being more assertive (more forceful, stronger, louder, etc).

Male directors generally like a more structured approach (ie everybody take a turn to speak), while women like to communicate more informally and allow interruptions.

Over the last few years in Australia, the % of women on Boards of ASX 200 has fallen from 28% (2011) to 16% (early 2013). Additionally, more women (27%) than men (12%) hold multi-directorships, ie the same women are rotated around Boards.

. The usual road to a Board position is from a role as a senior manager (like CEO, GM, CFO, etc) who has run a large business. Generally women miss out on this experience

. It has been suggested that Australia's national identity centers on masculine traits, ie mateship, fair go, etc and the way we celebrate patriotism is very male, which works against gender equity. Furthermore, it is being claimed that the habits of thinking and linking certain kinds of behaviour, such as drive with success in business favours males, as women do their work in a different way. The New South Wales Government Action Plan for Women identified some of the barriers preventing women from reaching senior roles as

"...marginalization of women as leaders in organisations; limited access to workplace opportunities; rigid definitions of merit; absence of role models; lack of mentoring and lack of access to training..."

Other factors include nonlinear career paths and demanding hours; the latter can be a problem when raising a family

It has been claimed (Catherine Fox, 2007f) that women in business face the following 3 dilemmas:

i) women are seen as either too tough or too soft

ii) high competency threshold/low rewards conundrum with women leaders facing higher standards than men and are rewarded with less

iii) many women leaders are viewed as competent but are disliked when they display traditional valued, male leadership behaviours, such as assertiveness. On the other hand, males adopting a more stereotypical female style, or soft skills, are valued more.

. The feminisation of an occupation reduces its status and impact in organisations. For example, the corporate switch from IR to HR allowed more women in this area but at the same time its impact and importance in many organisations was reduced, ie not reporting directly to the CEO. In many companies the HR role has become little more than a mopping-up exercise or a shoulder to cry on after decisions on staffing are made by senior management.

. However, with the trend towards greater flexibility in the workplace with older people working part-time and younger generations wanting less hierarchical structures, the role of women may increase in status.

. There is some suggestion that gender in the staff ranks has a greater impact than in the executive (Caitlin Fitzsimons et al, 2015). 

. The Australian Public Service has increased the representation of women employed from 46 percent to over 54% in 15 years in the public sector. It is felt that women place a higher value than men do on the intrinsic interest and importance of a job, rather than chasing high salaries; the latter is seen as a hallmark of success in the private sector. It is felt to that the public sector offers some advantages over the private sector; for women, the public sector provides more career opportunities and better conditions, such as certified agreements containing cutting-edge advantages: flexible hours, part-time permanency, time in lieu, paid maternity leave, the ability to buy extra leave and some on-site childcare centres.

. On the other hand, the current Australian workplace environment is stacked against women, ie studies show that men recruit other men 9 out of 10 times, while women typically recruit more evenly, ie 50:50. Men are typically in charge and do not understand the barriers facing women and minority groups. These barriers are part of the culture of an organisation and will not disappear without intervention

. Some women turn sexism into a weapon to further their career. Research has shown (Fiona Smith, 2015) that over the last few decades, education and prosecutions have improved the experience of women at work but sexism has become more covert, ie it is covered up and people who make complaints tend to leave the organisation. On the other hand, successful women often become corporate warriors by turning adversity to their advantage like using the discrimination, bias and put-downs to their advantage. For example, if a woman is being ignored in a meeting she can use a supportive colleague to funnel her opinion through to get the outcomes she wants.

The job of a manager is to circulate the very best talent to the top, while the job of the board is to make sure that the talent is properly sourced and encouraged.

In the interview process it is best to allocate women extra time as they will bring out negatives first and then talk about the positives; while men are the other way around.


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