Research published this month by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) has indicated that Australia is "falling behind" when it comes to female leadership.
CEDA asserts that when comparing women in business across Canada, New Zealand, the United States, UK and South America, Australia is "at the back of the pack".
The CEDA report was launched this week in Melbourne by Kate Ellis, federal minister for the status of women.
It indicated that 72 companies listed on the ASX 200 do not have women on their boards, while female directors only make up 12.5 per cent of directors in the ASX 200.
Furthermore, Australian women only represent three per cent of chief executive officer roles and hold 2.5 per cent of chair positions. Females, the research showed, also hold only eight per cent of the country's key executive management positions.
In the new paper, CEDA summarises the events of the Women in Leadership series recently held in Victoria and outlines its "realistic solutions" for fostering the advancement of Australian women in business.
Cultural change, it noted, is one of the most important things that needs to take place in order to see women move forward in the workplace. Measures should be taken to dispel "cultures of discrimination" – including outdated attitudes that may make women may feel "out of place" in leadership positions.
There are also a number of business arguments for boosting the profile of women in business. Women now graduate at a higher rate than men and CEDA argues that by "building the talent pipeline", an increasing number of opportunities for women will be developed throughout their careers.
One positive piece of research revealed at the Women In Leadership series is the take-up of part-time employment among Australian women.
Professor Judith Sloan, commissioner of the Fair Pay Commission, asserts that Australia "is the champion" of part-time work. In fact, more than 40 per cent of employment is part-time – and female participation in this type of work, especially older women, is on the rise.
The CEDA report also outlined several case studies showcasing companies that are successfully attracting and retaining talented women in the workforce.
At pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline Australia, for example, employees are able to apply for alternative or flexible work arrangements – including purchasing additional annual leave, career breaks, working from home, job sharing or working reduced or school hours.
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