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Published 23 October 2012 05:51, Updated 24 October 2012 07:20
Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency director Helen Conway says Australia has a gender pay gap that “refuses to budge”.
Julia Gillard’s well publicised spat with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has spurred a plethora of comment about misogony and whether Australia is an inherently sexist nation. Ironically, in the same week, a survey by management form Booz & Company has found that Australian women are the most economically empowered in the world.
The survey found that Australia ranked highest out of more than 100 countries, despite being paid an average of 17 per cent less than men. Why is it then, that despite having access to the best resources and education in the world, women are so under-represented on corporate boards?
Women hold just 14 per cent of board seats in ASX listed companies and only five chief executives among ASX 200 company are women. One-quarter of listed companies have no women on their boards at all, despite new rules for companies to abide by quotas. In the end, what do these findings translate to? Simple. Companies are just not listening.
Helen Conway, the director of the federal government’s Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, told Fairfax that while the report reflected that Australian women are among the most educated in the world (more than half of university graduates are women), gaps remain when it comes to workforce participation.
‘’We are wasting our female talent,’’ she says.
“Australia has a relatively low female workforce participation rate [Australia was ranked 14th in the participation rate of women of the 34 OECD nations in 2010] and a gender pay gap … that refuses to budge,’’ she says. “There is a large body of research showing Australia has a long way to go in removing barriers to women’s workforce participation.”
While Australian women might be considered “wealthy” when it comes to their education, children’s services and access to credit and property rights, it is a different picture for women trying to climb the corporate ladder. Yes there are good examples of women in high-profile leadership positions – just look at Yahoo! chief executive Marissa Mayer. The problem is there is not just enough of them.