This Chart Shows The Challenge In Getting The Balance Right On Gender Equality

The chart above is from a survey of 500 female business leaders published today by Executive Women Australia, a representative and networking organisation for Australian women in business.

The survey of the group’s membership found widespread disillusionment on progress with gender diversity in the Australian business landscape.

Around two-thirds of respondents (65%) said they thought Australia had fallen behind other countries when it came to promoting equality, by failing to introduce quota systems or executive gender targets.

There’s broad agreement on most of the issues polled, but the chart highlights the acute challenges with getting the balance right between incentives and punishments – carrots and sticks – when it comes to getting companies to take effective action on gender equality.

(The full question was: In the past many senior politicians have supported “punitive measures’’ to increase board diversity; do you think ‘naming and shaming’ businesses that have poor gender diversity records is a step in the right direction?)

Other findings from the Executive Women Australia report out today:

  • Asked about the most important consideration for women that politicians should be addressing in September’s federal election, the top result was equal pay (57%), followed by targets for greater gender representation in senior levels of government and corporations (51%), and flexible working hours for men and women (49%).
  • The survey quoted the example of NAB which has set a target of 30% female board membership by 2015 and asked respondents if such standards would make them more likely to apply for an executive role in the company. 71% opted for one of the three yes options; with 32% saying they wanted to work with a company willing to promote women to senior ranks. 16% said they would be confident gender would not be a barrier while another 23% said they would apply for the executive role but the gender targets wouldn’t alleviate all their concerns.
  • EWA executive director Tara Cheesman said: “What we found was a large proportion of women who no longer feel Australia is at the forefront of gender diversity legislation. Many believe we are now a considerable distance behind a range of European countries that are seeing quality results through deliberate top- tier gender initiatives, many of which include mandatory board quotas.”

    Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey will outline the Coalition’s plans for advancing the careers of executive women at the EWA’s annual leadership symposium tomorrow.

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