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It’s 2017, and it’s no secret that Australian organisations are trailing well behind where they should be with female representation at senior levels. Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency found that whilst 34% of senior managers are women, only 16% of CEOs are women (in non-public sector organisations with more than 100 employees).

The statistics are even worse within large Australian publicly listed companies, where only 5% of ASX 200 CEOs are women.  In fact, it is more likely that a Peter or John will be a CEO in Australia than a woman.  (SMH, March 2, 2017) The AICD reported last year that the ASX 200 still had 20 boards without women (SMH, June 8, 2016). We are still  well off the target set by the AICD of  30% female representation on boards by 2018 (SMH,  April 10, 2015).

The latest 2017 report from Bain and Corporate Executive Women reveals three insights into what affects women’s prospects for promotion into the C-suite in Australia, these at

  • Despite meritocracy creating significantly higher employee advocacy, Australian organisations are not perceived to be meritocratic by roughly half of all respondents; and women are even less positive
  • Substantial differences identified in feedback provided to women and men point to the perceived riskiness of female appointments. Women are told more frequently than men that they need to display “more confidence” and have “more experience” to be promote
  • Even worse, the actions and specific development required to be ready for promotion are rarely made clear to employees. This is particularly true for women.

What it comes down to is that mindset and unconscious bias are major contributors to the leadership gender gap.

The latest international research from McKinsey again verifies that managers’ mindsets are a key factor contributing to the glacial pace of women’s advancement. While almost 100% of the companies they studied offered anti-harassment/discrimination training, gender dynamics/bias training was much rarer. 67% of the companies offered training on the role of gender dynamics in hiring, while only 56% offered training on the impact on performance reviews.

Susan Colanutono, CEO of Leading Women, and Lighthouse Advancing Women Program creator and partner, recently commented that “We all (women and men) have mindsets about women and men, about leadership and careers, but what McKinsey’s research found was that when employees don’t understand gender dynamics (the ways their mindsets impact the talent decisions they make and actions they take), they have trouble taking action to minimize adverse impacts”.

Bain and CEW recommend that 4 things need to happen in order for organisations to make meaningful progress in overcoming gender bias:

  • Train managers to provide all employees with feedback that is SMART and thoughtful so that women as well as men can learn about and address any performance issues in a timely fashion.
  • Ensure that women and men have effective sponsors to support their career development and advocate on their behalf.
  • Ensure that women and men have access to career-development opportunities and specific roles in which they can gain the skills and experiences deemed necessary for promot
  • Take specific actions aimed at preventing bias in appointment and promotion decisions and processes.

The good news is that Lighthouse have a practical way to help managers understand how mindsets about women, men, careers and leadership create barriers for women. The Lighthouse Advancing Women in Leadership Programs, licensed through Leading Women, are based on sophisticated, research-based understanding of leadership and gender related career enablers. To talk to us about achieving diversity goals, and advancing women in your organisation, please get in touch. Click  here for more information on our Advancing Women in Leadership Programs

*You can catch Susan at one of our International Women’s Day events in partnership with AMCHAM and Engineers Australia, Sydney and Melbourne March 6 -9. #beboldforchange #advancingwomen

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