Leadership Matters

Perspectives on the key issues impacting senior leaders and their organizations
October 8, 2020

CEW ASX200 Senior Executive Census: Progress on Gender Diversity in Leadership Has Plateaued

Chief Executive Women launched the fourth edition of Chief Executive Women ASX200 Senior Executive Census (CEW Census), with the support of Spencer Stuart and Bain & Company. The CEW Census tracks the annual progress of female representation in the executive leadership teams of Australia’s largest public companies.

The 2020 report found that progress on gender diversity in leadership has plateaued, with fewer women in CEO roles and in positions responsible for profit and loss, which are critical to moving into the senior-most general management roles.

Women in the CEO role

  • Only one female CEO was appointed to an ASX200 company out of 25 CEO appointments in the past year.
  • Only three of 50 CEO appointments within ASX200 companies in the past two years were women. The number of female CEOs leading ASX200 companies has fallen in the past year to 10 (or 5%), down from 12 in 2019 and at the lowest level since the CEW Census began four years ago.
  • Of the 25 CEOs appointed in the past year, 76% came from line role positions with profit and loss responsibility; a further 20% came from the chief financial officer position.

Gender diversity in executive leadership teams

  • Only 30 companies, or 15% of the ASX200, have between 40% to 60% women on their executive leadership teams in 2020. This represents a slight increase from 2019 (12%), but is nearly double the number from four years ago when the CEW Census began. The CEW report defines gender balance as having at least 40% of each gender on a team, with the remaining 20% flexible.
  • Nearly two-thirds (65%) of ASX200 companies have no women in roles with profit and loss responsibility on their ELT, up from 57% last year. By contrast, there is only one company in the ASX200 with no males in ELT line roles.
  • In the ASX200, the telecommunications sector has the highest proportion of women in line roles with profit and loss responsibility, with 24% of line roles occupied by women, double the ASX200 average of 12%.
  • In industries with a predominantly female workforce, such as healthcare, there is huge under-representation of women in roles with profit and loss responsibility. Only 5% of leadership line roles in ASX200 healthcare companies are held women, down from 15% four years ago.
  • The representation of women in chief financial officer roles increased to 16% from 9% in 2017, but did not increase in the past year.

The report also proposes steps that businesses and government can take to make progress on gender diversity. Underscoring those recommendations, Spencer Stuart consultant Kerri Burgess commented: “In addition to a commitment to change, organisations, leaders and all of us need to be aware of and address unconscious biases that may undermine even the best intentions towards increasing gender equality and inclusion. Broadening candidate slates to deliberately include more women, gathering recent, consistent and objective data on the capabilities and future potential of all candidates and selecting hiring teams that include more females are some of the ways to begin to remove the subjective biases in candidate assessment and selection processes that can disadvantage women.”

Learn more about the Chief Executive Women organization and “2020 Chief Executive Women ASX200 Senior Executive Census”.

Download full report