In the male-dominated corporate world, Australia's top companies are making significant strides towards gender equality by appointing more female chief executives.
With five women now leading among the country's top 20 companies, up from three last year, the share of female CEOs has risen to 25%. Experts attribute this progress to the growing operational experience of female executives and the recognition of the advantages of diversity in leadership, according to analysis published by the Australian Financial Review.
The recent appointments of Vicki Brady at Telstra, Leah Weckert at Coles, and Fiona Hick at Fortescue Metals have contributed to this positive trend, the report said. In fact, the number of women leading ASX 50 companies has doubled to eight. Even among the ASX 200, there has been a doubling in the proportion of women CEOs, although it remains relatively low.
Weckert's own ascent is monumental. She is Coles' first female CEO in its 109-year-long history. When news of her appointment made headlines in February, data on women rising from the ranks to become senior leaders looked very grim. Of the ASX300 companies, merely 50 reported a gender-balanced executive leadership.
"At this rate, it will take 100 years for women to make up at least 40% of all CEO positions on the ASX," estimated a report from Chief Executive Women (CEW), an organisation comprised of influential women leaders in business, non-profit and academia.
Diane Smith-Gander, former president of CEW, for her part, believes the true celebration can only come when there is equal representation, when 50% of CEO positions are finally held by women.