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Published 05 November 2013 07:02, Updated 26 November 2013 18:35
BCA deputy president Maria Tarrant says the organisation’s plan for positive discrimination doesn’t mean women should be put up for roles for which they are not ready. Photo: Christopher Chan
The Business Council of Australia is asking its members to fast-track women into jobs in a radical rethink of the way companies hire and promote.
A ground-breaking research report advocates interventionist measures that positively discriminate in favour of women, as part of the BCA’s commitment to have 50 per cent of senior roles filled by women in the next decade.
The BCA represents 120 of Australia’s biggest companies and its members will receive a copy of the report on Tuesday and then will decide for themselves whether they will take on board its advice.
While some of the measures will be confronting for some businesses, BCA president Tony Shepherd, says in a letter to members that the recommendations reflect the best practices in recruitment, appointment and promotion.
“The low representation of women in senior levels of management cannot continue. We risk not getting the best talent for the job and women not reaching their true potential. Such a situation is not good for individuals, business or the economy,” he said.
The progress of women into the top jobs is often described as “glacial”. Women comprise around 46 per cent of the workforce, but hold only 16.4 per cent of board seats and 3.5 per cent of chief executive positions in ASX 200 companies.
Up to 50 per cent of business graduates and 60 per cent of law graduates are female.
The BCA recommendations, as a follow-up to its Action Plan for Enduring Prosperity, announced in July, tackle the excuses of companies not having enough suitably qualified women to promote and not being able to find enough women to hire.
The president of the Australian Human Resources Institute, Peter Wilson, says he is pleasantly surprised at the nature of the recommendations.
“It is interventionist, but it needs to be,” he said. “It is unexpected from a group generally considered as one that doesn’t like interventionist activity.”
Wilson says that although smaller companies may baulk at the suggested measures, larger, publicly listed organisations “will not blink an eye”.
“They are already getting on with it and are getting results.”
The deputy CEO of the BCA, Maria Tarrant, says positive discrimination in favour of women does not mean that people will be promoted into jobs before they are ready: “You want to see women with appropriate competencies on the list”.
However, an adoption of the hiring, development and promotion processes would take unconscious bias out of those decisions and this is a development that could benefit men, as much as it does women.
Some of the report’s recommendations include: