For the first time, there is an equal split between female and male executives in the running for the CEO of the Year Award

There is a 50/50 split between men and women finalists competing for the CEO of the Year award. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
  • For the first time in The CEO Magazine’s Executive of the Year Awards history, there is a 50/50 gender split between finalists of the coveted CEO of the Year category.
  • Five women and five men are up for the major award, including TravelEdge’s Kim Wethmar and Hendry Group’s Emma Hendry.
  • The event has also noted a 10% increase in the number of women finalists.

Women CEOs in Australia are getting more recognition.

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The CEO Magazine has revealed the finalists of its 2019 Executive of the Year Awards and for the first time, there is a 50/50 split between men and women for the coveted CEO of the Year award.

It’s an achievement for the award category as there was only one female finalist last year. This year, five female and male CEOs are up for the major title, in a positive step toward gender parity at executive award ceremonies in Australia.

“We’re proud that we have so many incredible female executives here in Australia who we can acknowledge and celebrate,” The CEO Magazine content director Susan Armstrong told Business Insider Australia.

Armstrong hoped it was “a sign of fantastic things to come”.

“Hopefully, one day, in the not-too-distant future, the fact that there is a 50/50 gender split will not be remarkable, but the norm, and the gender of a CEO will be the very last thing about them that’s noteworthy,” she said.

Unfortunately, the gender split isn’t yet representative of boardrooms around Australia. The announcement comes a week after the results of the 2019 Chief Executive Women (CEW) ASX 200 Senior Executives Census, which found that just 12 of Australia’s top 200 listed companies have a woman chief executive, a drop from 14 the year before.

“With few exceptions, progress towards gender balance at the executive level is slow, and at the very top it has gone backwards,” CEW President, Sue Morphet said in a statement.

“Across the ASX200, more women at the CEO level is essential for ensuring gender balance in all other key leadership positions, such as COO or Group Executive.”

At the awards, there is also an equal gender split between finalists for the Executive of the Year category – a traditionally female dominated category – with two male and two female finalists in the running.

In addition, the traditionally male-dominated event has seen the total number of female finalists increase by 10% compared to 2018. Armstrong put this down to an increased push for female applicants.

“Traditionally, the majority of all the applications we receive are by men ­– sometimes up to 70 per cent – but this year we hoped the playing field would become a little more even, so we encouraged women to nominate their colleague, boss, friend or sister for an award,” Armstrong said. “We certainly still have a way to go, but I’m counting a 10 per cent increase this year as a win.”

Armstrong added that gender diversity, particularly in a corporate setting, can translate to greater innovation, increased productivity, higher employee retention, better decision-making, more collaboration, better products and significant economic opportunities for business.

“Most importantly though, we need women in senior executive positions now so they can pave the way for future generations – a 200-year wait for parity simply isn’t good enough.”

Armstrong is also one of 14 judges for the awards, including Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman and OzHarvest Founder and CEO Ronni Kahn.

“Each and every person on the list deserves to be there because of their contributions to not only the companies they work for, but to our business community as a whole,” Armstrong said in a statement.

The CEO Magazine Awards, which is currently in its eighth year, recognises CEOs and senior managers across a huge range of industries in Australia. This year it will be held at The Palladium at Crown, Melbourne on November 14.

Here are the 10 nominees for CEO of the Year:

Zena Burgess, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners

Zena Burgess. Image, The CEO Magazine.

David Hackett, MLC Life Insurance

David Hackett. Image, The CEO Magazine.

Andrew Ritchie, EstimateOne

Andrew Ritchie. Image, The CEO Magazine.

Emma Hendry, Hendry Group

Emma Hendry. Image, The CEO Magazine.

Fiona Johnston, UM Australia

Fiona Johnston. Image, The CEO Magazine.

Michele Smith, North Eastern Community Hospital

Michele Smith. Image, The CEO Magazine.

Anthony Nantes, Wisr

Anthony Nantes. Image, The CEO Magazine.

Kim Wethmar, TravelEdge

Kim Wethmar. Image, The CEO Magazine.

Bobby Lehane, CHU Underwriting Agencies

Bobby Lehane. Image, The CEO Magazine.

John Winning, Winning Group

John Winning. Image, The CEO Magazine.

The 2018 CEO of the Year winner was Talent International’s Mark Nielsen.

Sharon Masige previously worked for The CEO Magazine.

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