Two years ago when we secretly removed men from Which-50 for a month to make a point about discrimination, there were 11 female CEOs in the ASX 200. Now there are 10. The long arc of history might bend toward progress, but it does so slowly and takes a jagged path.

For this year’s International Women’s Day we went straight to the top, or as close to the top as women are allowed to get, and asked a panel of 10 senior female executives why change is so slow. But we also asked them where they have seen genuine progress over the last decade.

Why did we choose a decade? – One year for each female CEO on the ASX.

Christina Hobbs, Co-Founder and CEO, Verve Super 

Hobbs tells us that the lack of female CEOs is hardly unique to the ASX 200. In fact, it may be worse outside of the 200. “We don’t see women taking on those feeder roles at smaller companies either,” she tells us.

 

Rosemary Addis, CEO, Impact Strategist: 

“There is a prevailing culture which has grown up over time that isn’t conducive to looking for the diversity and the functions and the differences. It’s more conducive to looking for sameness. We’ve relied on the pipeline of talent to say ‘Women have been coming through and we’ll be able to fill more senior roles as more women come through,’ for a long time. We relied on that to the exclusion of other things to build diversity in the workforce, and to embrace different styles of leadership. And I think we can now say that hasn’t worked.”

 

Megan Motto, CEO, Governance Institute of Australia
There are a complex set of reasons why women do not occupy more of the senior roles in Australia’s biggest companies says Megan Motto. “It starts with how gender is really culturally transmitted and our perceptions of roles.”
Anne-Marie Allgrove, Partner, Baker McKenzie
When it comes to getting women into senior roles organisations have really made an effort from a process point of view around things like promotions, evaluations, and performance reviews, Baker McKenzie Partner Anne Maris Allgrove tells us.
Pippa Leary, CEO, Swift Media
“I really think the networking that goes on between women in the corporate world has improved things. Just knowing there is that network helps so much.”
Ann Bowering, CEO Issuer Services, Computershare
“What we are talking about is intergenerational change,” says Ann Bowering, CEO, Issuer Services ANZ for Computershare. “It takes time. If you look at the next round of CEOs, they’re Gen X – my generation – and we have the benefit of seeing the world in a bit of a different way.”

Sue Jauncey, CEO, Appellon

“We need to flip this around and we need to start focusing more on showcasing what females have achieved in their leadership position.”

 

Graz van Egmond, Banksia Foundation

“We need to take a step back and ask where do I want to go, not where do people want to put me.”

 

Michelle Hutton, CEO, Edelman

“One of the challenges we have is a pipeline problem, meaning I don’t think there are enough women coming through the ranks of organisations and businesses. That is something I know we have been actively trying to address over the last few years.”

Madeleine Park, Fashion Stylist and Host of Style Stories podcast

“The more stories we have of women being able to succeed, the encouraging we are and the more understanding we are of those competing priorities.”

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