From the top

Thursday, 01 September 2022


    New research from Chief Executive Women (CEW Australia) and Bain & Company reviews what Australian companies are doing to achieve real results in gender-balanced leadership.

    The Take it from the Top: Accelerating Women’s Representation in Executive Leadership report examines the practices of 22 Australian companies that are outperforming the ASX300 average in terms of gender-balanced leadership teams. The qualitative analysis revealed five accelerators for increasing women’s representation in executive leadership:

    1. Executives must be committed and accountable.
    2. Commitments must translate into actions — for everyone.
    3. Targeted talent management unlocks equal opportunities.
    4. Succession plans must be deliberate and long term.
    5. Recruiting must be equitable.

    The report found more than 60 per cent of interviewed organisations tied diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) outcomes to executive compensation. “This matches a global trend,” said researchers, noting almost half of financial services companies in the UK tie executive compensation to gender representation, according to a 2022 Bain report, Women in Finance Charter: The Blueprint.

    While significant headway had been made, the report emphasised women’s persisting underrepresentation. Its 2021 census found women hold only a quarter of ASX300 executive leadership team positions and comprise under 6 per cent of CEO positions.

    The report expounded on the effectiveness of diversity and inclusion targets, with buy-in driven from the board. For Link Group, the research found that the board and ELT were “in absolute unison” in support of achieving their long-term commitments, with senior leadership emphasising the correlation between diversity and business performance in their messaging. “Alignment between business goals and diversity targets encouraged Link Group’s leaders to introduce DEI targets into their scorecards,” researchers found.

    ANZ used scorecards to help refine its gender equity approach, initially adopting blanket targets across divisions. The scorecards demonstrated that some divisions, for example Talent & Culture, required counterbalancing for men in the division, leading ANZ to calibrate their goals toward “balance”.

    Public accountability

    Consumers, investors and staff are often referring to annual reports, impact documents and Australian Government statutory agency Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) data to substantiate companies’ ability to meet environmental, social and governance (ESG) and equity commitments.

    BHP mining subsidiary South32 told researchers that its investors appreciate the transparency DEI targets provide. “The company’s progress towards achieving an inclusive and diverse culture is an important signal to investors that South32 can deliver on its long-term strategy.”

    Board investment

    The companies spotlighted involved their boards in succession planning for key management personnel decisions, the research showed. “If the board is comfortable with a role’s requirements and objectives, it may be more open to successors with the right skills and potential, even if they lack specific industry or role experience. This is particularly important for women, as they are less likely to have previous key management personnel experience at large ASX companies.”

    Deloitte increased the percentage of women on its Australian leadership team from 15 per cent in 2015 to 38 per cent in 2019 by identifying and developing high-potential women for leadership roles as part of succession planning. However, the report emphasised there is no “one and done” solution. “The companies we interviewed have multi-layered and detailed plans to advance candidate readiness.”


    The AICD congratulates members who were recognised in the June Queen’s Birthday Honours.

    Australian Capital Territory 

    Bethlyn Blackwood AM MAICD
    Ian Murray AM GAICD
    Joanne Evans PSM GAICD
    Major General Jason Blain AM GAICD
    Daniel Sloper PSM GAICD
    Kirrily Dearing AM GAICD
    Major General David Coghlan AO MAICD
    Todd Ashurst DSM GAICD
    Liesel Wett OAM FAICD
    Group Captain Louise Desjardins CSC AAICD
    Adrian Capner CSC GAICD
    Paul Bellas CSM MAICD

    New South Wales

    David Pumphrey OAM MAICD
    David McCredie AM MAICD
    John Thomas OAM FAICD
    Robert Kelly AM GAICD
    Anthony Staveley AM MAICD
    Philip Garling AM FAICD
    Laurence Marshbaum OAM GAICD
    Colonel Stuart Cree CSC MAICD
    Malcolm Adams PSM MAICD
    Mark Gibbs ABSM AAICD
    Professor Guy Marks AO GAICD
    Dr Michelle Mulligan OAM FAICD
    Gregory Preston AM GAICD
    David Kent OAM FAICD
    Dr Marlene Kanga AO FAICD
    Darren Dick PSM GAICD
    Steven Harker AM MAICD

    Nortern Territory

    Andrew Thomas ABSM MAICD
    Robert Shewring OAM GAICD


    Brendan Moon AM GAICD
    The Honourable Lawrence Anthony AO FAICD
    Gregory Leach AFSM GAICD
    Judith Brinsmead AM MAICD
    Louise Hickson AM GAICD
    Dr Phillip Moulds OAM GAICD
    Elena Gosse OAM GAICD
    Nigel Harris AM GAICD
    Dr Ewen McPhee AM GAICD
    Todd Harris PSM MAICD
    Professor Ajay Rane PSM GAICD
    Andrew McBryde OAM MAICD
    Steven Hambleton AM FAICD

    South Australia

    Commodore Steven Tiffen AM AAICD
    Alan Southcott AM MAICD
    Peter de Cure AM FAICD
    David Swift AM MAICD
    Jeffrey Ellison AM FAICD
    Richard Hearn AM GAICD
    David Reynolds PSM FAICD


    Dr Brendan Murphy AC FAICD
    Ann Byrne AM FAICD
    Dr Peter Langkamp OAM FAICD
    David Langworthy OAM MAICD
    Terence Winters AM FAICD
    Christopher Leptos AO FAICD
    John Hood AM FAICD
    Kerry Watson AM MAICD
    Ingrid Svendsen OAM GAICD
    Professor Robyn Langham AM GAICD
    Professor Peter Choong AO MAICD
    Associate Professor Catharyn Stern AO MAICD
    Sonya Clancy AM FAICD
    Bernard Corser OAM MAICD
    Todd Harper AM GAICD

    Western Australia

    Dr Donna Cross OAM GAICD
    Dr Michael Foley OAM GAICD
    Wendy Malcolm AM GAICD
    Stephen Carre OAM FAICD
    Geoffrey Stooke AM FAICD
    Dr Ruth Shean AO FAICD
    Asha Bhat OAM MAICD
    Ian Telfer ABSM MAICD
    Peter Lee OAM MAICD


    Philip Forrest AM FAICD, Singapore
    Brenton Mauriello AM MAICD, Bangkok


    John Wylie AC MAICD, Victoria

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