Executive women still left out of the 'boys club' due to referrals: EWA

by Lena Woods,Mackenzie McCarty21 Dec 2012

According to a newly released Executive Women Australia (EWA) survey, 60% of Australian business women believe male dominated referral networks are one of the biggest barriers in their rise to executive roles.

This news comes just weeks after an eFinancialCareers survey found 64% of women working in mortgage broking and other financial services roles believe gender discrimination exists in the industry.

EWA says the number of female executive roles in some of Australia’s largest companies remains below 10% - and has done for the past decade.

The survey showed that one in two Australian women partly attributed the low percentage of female executives to the belief that ASX500 employers have a lack of experience with female executives, and aren’t willing to invest the time to "evolve" their company’s culture.

An overwhelming 70% of women said the hesitancy of many leading businesses to implement relevant cultural reforms has made the workplace no more conducive to women holding executive management roles.

EWA executive director Tara Cheesman says the survey results make it clear that women feel limited by the ‘boys club’ culture surrounding executive positions.

“Many senior roles are filled via referrals, and the reality is that the current field of executives is dominated by men. This creates an on-going employment cycle that excludes women, and limits transparency in the recruiting process. It is important that we break this cycle of male employment, and open our eyes to the overwhelming evidence that suggests diversified boards outperform non-diversified boards.”

When asked which initiatives companies could use to increase the number of women in executive roles, one in two women said facilitating top-end managers to network with executive women was one of the most crucial steps.

Some 40% of women thought a company setting internal achievable targets for gender representation was another of the most vital initiatives.

 Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show only 3.5% of ASX200 companies have a female CEO and only 12.3% of corporate board directors are women.

“Research from Catalyst, JB Were and Goldman Sachs has shown that having women in strong executive roles correlates with greater financial performance. On top of this, it places the business in a position of industry leadership, which will be more important as the government continues to introduce policy that will name and shame businesses on the basis of gender equality.”