Womens Leadership Research Institute

The Reibey Institute is a fully independent, not-for-profit research centre which provides non-judgemental insight and exploration of women’s leadership issues.

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100 Women Leaders

A national study aiming to identify the pathways and key success factors for women leaders in corporate Australia

During 2013, the Reibey Institute interviewed 100 of Australia’s leading corporate women. Following our ASX500 board and company performance series in previous years, the Institute decided it was time to hear from women leaders who are poised in the coming years to take Chief Executive, Director and Chairperson roles, in an effort to identify the pathways and key success factors for women leaders in corporate Australia. Throughout 2014, we are sharing the 8 major themes that emerged across those 100 interviews and powerful insights and quotes from those women to support our findings. We thank, Daniel Knoll, Partner KPMG, Johnathan Russell at Consult Australia and Cindy Carpenter for their support in the project.
We need solid minds doing this they are good at.  I would rather a super competent person flexibly or part-time than a missing out on that person for second best. If your goal is to have the best person be willing to look at different things to get that person.” Suzana Ritevski, Chief Marketing Officer, GE Australia and New Zealand

Expectations and Aspirations

Coming soon

Growing Up

Coming soon

Leverage Technology

Coming soon

ASX500 Women Leaders – 2011 Edition

In 2011 we again researched the performance of the 500 largest listed companies in Australia. What we found at the time is now widely recognised as evidence that supports the links between diversity and financial performance.

Shareholder Value

  • 1 or more Women Directors – 3 Year ROE 6.7%
  • All Companies – 3 Year ROE 3%
  • No Women Directors – 3 Year ROE 0%
  • 1 or more Women Directors – 5 Year ROE 9.2%
  • No Women Directors – 5 Year ROE 0.5%
  • All Companies – 5 Year ROE 4.5%


  • Women hold 9.5% of director positions, up from 7.1% last year
  • Companies with women on the board delivered 6.7% and 9.2%, 3 and 5 Yr Return on Equity versus -0.1% and 0.5% for companies with all male boards.
  • 307 women directors and 10 women chairpersons
  • 233 companies with women directors on boards, leaving 267 with no board gender diversity
  • 235 unique women holding 307 roles.
  • 20% of women serve on multiple boards versus 12% of men
  • Average age of women on ASX500 in 52
  • More than 1/3 studied commerce or economics

ASX500 Women Leaders – 2010 Edition

In 2010 the Reibey Institute delivered Australia’s first diversity study into the ASX500, including Australia’s first insights into the impact of gender diversity on shareholder returns.

  • 1 or more Women Directors – 3 Year ROE 11.6%
  • No Women Directors – 3 Year ROE 0.9%
  • All Companies – 3 Year ROE 4.7%
  • 1 or more Women Directors – 5 Year ROE 13.1%
  • No Women Directors – 5 Year ROE 2.0%
  • All Companies – 5 year ROE 6.0%
  • Women hold 7.1% of all ASX500 director roles
  • Companies with women on the board delivered 11.6% and 13.1%, 3 and 5 Yr Return on Equity versus 0.9% and 2.0% for companies with all male boards.
  • 39 women serving on more than one board
  • 225 directors, 10 chairpersons, 13 CEO and 45 CFO roles held by women
  • average age of female directors was 50.2


It’s not a glass ceiling; it’s a masculine fault line.

“Unearned advantage, the advantage of being male, is a difficult prize for men to voluntarily abandon.”

“Men in power simply fail to undo the unthinkable: disadvantage themselves by eliminating unmerited advantage.”

Unearned advantage allows men to dominate

Women are running neck and neck with their male counterparts in Australia’s universities. And they are dominating important professional categories. But the bad news is that in the high-salary stakes, any semblance of equity appears a long way off.

Roy Morgan Research reports that over the past decade the number of Australians with a university degree jumped from 18 per cent to 26.5 per cent. That increase was dominated by women completing tertiary education – up from 17 per cent in 2002 to 26 per cent a decade later. For men the increase was solid but less spectacular – 20 per cent to 27 per cent.

While the proportion of men and women in the workforce has barely changed over the past decade, women are also advancing on the professional roles historically dominated by men.

The number of Australian men in the workforce in 2002 was 66 per cent, compared to 67 per cent 10 years later. For women it was 51 per cent in 2002 and 53 per cent a decade later. There was virtually no change over the decade.

Across the same 10 years however, the percentage of women in professional roles increased while the proportion of women in ”home duties” dropped from 17 per cent in 2002 to 11.7 per cent in 2012.

According to a review of the 2011 census by demographer Bernard Salt, there are more than 10 million Australians in the workforce with some interesting gender splits in occupational categories.

For example, 99 per cent of Australia’s 14,105 midwives are women. And half (49 per cent) of the 1170 gynaecologists and obstetricians are women (up from 39 per cent in the 2006 census).

More than half (55 per cent) of all veterinarians are women (up from 45 per cent in 2006), 58 per cent of pathologists are women (up from 48 per cent), and 53 per cent of paediatricians are women (up from 45 per cent).

The bar is still dominated by men, despite an increase from 22 per cent to 29 per cent of women barristers. The good news stops there. Women are dramatically under-represented in higher income levels.

According to Roy Morgan Research, of all Australians who earn in excess of $80,000 a year, three-quarters (74 per cent) are men and only a quarter (26 per cent) are women. While that represents an improvement for women over the past decade (up from only 15 per cent in 2002), it remains deeply iniquitous.

The gains made by women in the past decade are remarkable. But why is inequity so entrenched in the workplace?

According to the ABS, the proportion of women CEOs in Australia’s top 200 ASX companies has remained below 5 per cent for the past decade. Boards and company directors appoint CEOs and 85 per cent of ASX 200 board directors are men. It’s not a glass ceiling; it’s a masculine fault line.

Unearned advantage, the advantage of being male, is a difficult prize for men to voluntarily abandon. Regardless of how sensitive to social injustice men are, they do little to change the system of dominance, to redress the widespread disadvantage women experience throughout their lives.

It is easier to understand why some women would want to get ahead in the male system even at the cost of leaving other women behind, than it is to understand why some men would want to jettison the privileges of male supremacy. This inability or unwillingness to disadvantage themselves by dismantling systemic advantage quarantines men from needing to confront the truth that they enjoy vast privilege that is unearned.

Most countries, asserts lawyer and academic Catharine MacKinnon, proclaim a commitment to equality and yet few, if any, deliver it substantively to women. ”You don’t have countries saying, ‘Yes, we have sex discrimination here and want it. We’re entitled to it and enjoy it.’ You don’t have them saying that; you have them doing it.”

Men in power simply fail to undo the unthinkable: disadvantage themselves by eliminating unmerited advantage.

MacKinnon believes society so comprehensively fails to recognise the hierarchies that have subordinated women for so long they have become perceived as natural. The dominance of men over women has been, she says, accomplished socially as well as economically prior to the operation of law, as everyday life.

Is it any wonder then that despite the gains being hard-won by women themselves, the system resists their advances and refuses to advance them.

Ross Honeywill is an internationally published author and doctoral scholar. He is national convener of the Centre for Gender Equity.

Read more: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/unearned-advantage-allows-men-to-dominate-20130715-2q021.html#ixzz2Z9hTqUye

Forget ‘having it all’, quit trying to ‘do it all’

Angela Priestly // 27 May 2013

Elizabeth Proust proudly doesn’t cook. Learning culinary skills was not at the top of the priority list when the now portfolio chairman and company director was in the early stages of her career.

Now, the Nestle Chairman uses this personal fact to demonstrate why she believes women should strive to “not do it all”.

Speaking at a CEDA Women in Leadership event in Melbourne Friday, Proust advised women to forget the “have it all” debate and aim to pick and choose the tasks really required of us, especially at home. Ask for help, she suggested. Pay for help. Get your partner to learn how to cook.

It’s advice she felt the need to share because attitudes still prevail in society that suggest a woman will look after the domestic duties, no matter how many hours she’s putting into her work. Following the event I had to laugh at how engrained such attitudes actually are when one attendee told me she and her husband have the domestic duties well under control in their household because he’s “well-trained”.

Proust made her point about entrenched attitudes on who does what domestic work while delivering a rather pessimistic view on the question, “Is change tangible?” for women in leadership. She believes these long-engrained attitudes are difficult to remove. Indeed, she wonders if we’re making much progress at all, especially when she hears stories of school boys going off to camp saying they won’t have to worry about the cooking because the girls already have it under control.

Earlier in the week I heard consultant Karen Gately describe the reaction she had going to her children’s school and meeting other mums for the first time, given her stay-at-home husband had been handling the childcare and school-related duties for a number of years. “They said, ‘We thought he was a widower, we thought you were dead’,” she told the Little Black Dress Group forum. “I said, ‘I’m not dead! I’m just working.”

Shifting these deeply engrained stereotypes about who does what when it comes to domestic and childcare work is vital if we’re to offer more choice to men, and aid women in their career progression — and ultimately see a more gender diverse range of leaders in business and society.

And as Proust and other speakers at Friday’s CEDA event reminded us, we still have a long way to go when it comes to women in leadership, and progress made and celebrated in the past is no indication that progress will continue into the future.

Company director Sam Mostyn offered a stark reality check of how little there is to celebrate when it comes to the pointy end of leadership — the CEO level. There are just seven female CEOs in the ASX 200 and time alone will not solve the problem — not unless we’re content to wait until the year 2300 when Dr Terrance Fitzsimmons recently found that at our current rate of change, we’ll reach gender parity when it comes to CEOs in our leading, listed organisations.

Meanwhile, IBM managing director Andrew Stevens demonstrated the capacity for men to better contribute to workplace gender diversity. He believes the two key barriers to participation for women are bias — conscious and unconscious — and family commitments. The key to overcoming the former is to better engage with men and address the key ‘game changers’ that could make a difference. On the latter, he suggested making it easier for all employers to work outside of the office when needed — to better use technology to offer flexible work arrangements.

So what can women personally do? Proust and Mostyn suggested we vote with our feet: if you’re in a position to leave an organisation where you can’t see women at the top and don’t see much willingness by the male leaders for change, then take your skills elsewhere. Women should also target sponsors over mentors, and seriously back their abilities and skills, especially when applying for new positions because their male competition are no doubt talking themselves up.

And, of course, we should all quit trying to “do it all” and find someone else to help instead.

Forcing the issue will not solve gender imbalance

It feels as though barely a week goes by without a conference somewhere in Australia focused on the woeful representation of women in leadership. The glacial pace of change has seen quotas proposed as a solution by many impatient with the poor progress to date.

Inaction on gender equality in organisations is not an option. However, mandated quotas are not the silver bullet to solve this complex issue, which has its roots in the lack of women on the pathway to senior leadership in the first place.

While there’s no denying women remain under-represented at board tables across Australia, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s 2012 Australian Census of Women in Leadership found an improvement in the number of female directors. The area where progress has stalled – which demands our immediate focus – is the executive ranks.

With women comprising less than one in 10 executives of ASX 500 companies, Australia lags well behind other countries with similar systems of corporate governance including the US, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. Our census showed almost two-thirds of companies in the ASX 500 have no women in executive management positions and female executive managers are more likely to be in support roles, such as head of human resources or legal, rather than line roles such as chief operating officer or chief financial officer. In fact, women’s representation in line management positions in ASX 500 companies is a mere 6.2 per cent. A critical pathway to board and chief executive positions is through line management so we must focus on attracting more women into these roles.


The unique managerial structures and definitions within organisations mean setting mandatory quotas to address the poor representation of women in executive positions presents practical challenges. Overseas experience has shown quotas at board level don’t necessarily encourage a widening of the talent pool. For example, Norway’s quota of 40 per cent female directors has resulted in the ”golden skirts” (a group of prominent women who hold multiple board directorships) and has been criticised for failing to significantly increase the number of women set up to replace them.

Voluntary targets are the sensible alternative to increase representation in senior roles.

There is nothing radical about targets. Indeed, setting targets is an essential part of managing business performance. Gender targets operate in the same way – by setting objectives around a key management area of focus.

Unlike quotas, voluntary targets allow employers to set their own goals across their organisation, based on what is realistic for their industry and their circumstances. Targets can be set for a particular level, for example graduates or senior managers, or for specific business units.

Organisations are already encouraged to set voluntary targets, through initiatives such as the ASX Corporate Governance Council’s diversity recommendations and the new Workplace Gender Equality Act. These external pressure points appear to be working. A report on the implementation of diversity recommendations found that 82 per cent of ASX 200 companies had set measurable objectives for gender diversity. The report noted that organisations that reported numerical gender diversity targets were best able to demonstrate progress.

Momentum for target setting will likely increase from next year, when organisations with 100 or more staff will have to report to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency on the gender composition of their workforces, and the existence of any strategies or policies to support gender equality. These reports will be publicly available.

Using this reporting data, the agency, in consultation with employers, will develop industry specific benchmarks allowing organisations to compare their gender equality progress against their industry peers and to track their progress over time.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency will soon launch a tool and guidelines on how to set voluntary targets. These tools, coupled with the industry specific benchmarks, will ensure organisations aren’t playing darts in the dark when it comes to setting targets.

There is considerable evidence showing a positive correlation between gender diversity and organisational performance. Progress needs to be driven from the top by leaders who understand these issues and commit to change.

I say to organisations that are yet to set targets: it is time to start the journey.

Helen Conway is director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/forcing-the-issue-will-not-solve-gender-imbalance-20130513-2jiaz.html#ixzz2UNo4F1eR

Call for quota to ensure more female board members

AUSTRALIAN company boards need a quota system to ensure talented women get a chance to serve as directors, high-profile businesswoman Carol Schwartz says.

Ms Schwartz says a quota will help create a database of capable women who are not part of established business networks.

“I have very strong opinions about this debate,” she told Business Daily. “I’m in favour of quotas.”

Read article here

Source:  heraldsun.com.au  |  Nicole Lindsay

Graincorp appoints Alison Watkins CEO

Graincorp today announced the appointment of Alison Watkins as the company’s Managing Director and CEO.

Ms Watkins is currently CEO of private investment group and funds manager Bennelong Group, where she runs a portfolio of domestic and international businesses.
“Alison Watkins brings considerable experience in agriculture, food processing and retailing to GrainCorp, and a great breadth of Australian and international senior executive and non-executive experience,” GrainCorp chairman Don Taylor said in a statement on Tuesday. “She will take up her position from August 9.”

Click here to download the announcement

Inspire Women – Telstra Business Women’s Awards

A nation-wide search for Australia’s most inspiring business women is on again with the 2010 Telstra Business Women’s Awards open today for nominations and entries.

More than 430 outstanding women have won acclaim and significant profile for their achievements, courage and leadership capabilities in business since the Awards began in 1995. Past winners include Georgina Rinehart, Chairman of Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd (2009), Janine Allis, Founder and Managing Director of Boost Juice Bars (2004) and Julia Ross, Managing Director of Julia Ross Recruitment (2002).

The Awards offer more than $200,000 in overall cash and prizes, as well as the honour of winning Australia’s most prestigious business women’s prize and joining an alumni of outstanding past winners.

To nominate yourself or other inspirational business women visit: www.telstrabusinesswomensawards.com or call1800 817 536 during business hours. Nominations and entries open today and close on 21 June 2010. State and territory winners in the five Award categories will be chosen between 14 September and 12 October and the national Awards ceremony for the 2010 Telstra Australian Business Women’s Awards will be held on 11 November.


Program launched to boost women on boards‎

The Australian Institute of Company Directors has launched a year-long mentoring program to help 63 women onto company boards.

The women will be mentored by 56 chairmen and senior directors from Australia’s 200 biggest listed companies.

The institute says the latest figures show that women make up only 8.3 per cent of board directors among ASX 200 companies.

However, the AICD’s chief executive, John Colvin, says the program’s success should not be judged solely on how many extra women it helps into board positions.

“When the top chairmen in Australia get behind something like this, that’s a huge signal, I think, to the rest of the boards throughout Australia and, quite frankly, boards everywhere that where we are is not good enough and that we have to improve it,” he told reporters.

The Business Council of Australia launched a similar mentoring program for management positions last month, but John Colvin says the moves are not intended as a response to recent pressure for legislation to introduce quotas.

“We can do what we can do, and other people can assess and see whether they need to do anything else,” he added.

“But there is quite a lot of enthusiasm for this general diversity aspect, and I actually think it’s the mood change and the cultural change which is the most important thing and has the most long lasting effect.”

The institute says it had no problems finding mentors, and that no one it approached declined to volunteer.

The list includes the chairmen of some of Australia’s largest companies, including Elizabeth Bryan from Caltex, Roger Corbett from Fairfax Media, Catherine Livingstone from Telstra and Elizabeth Alexander from CSL.

The AICD says it had more applicants for the program than places, but will hold other events and initiatives to assist women who missed out on the program to further their careers.

When asked if the institute may extend the mentoring program to other under-represented groups among ASX 200 boards, such as people from a more diverse range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, the AICD’s chairman Richard Lee responded that addressing the gender gap was the number one priority.

“I think in the current debate, certainly the current debate in corporate Australia and around government, when people say diversity, what is in the front of their mind is gender, and I think quite rightly,” he replied.

“That’s not to say that there aren’t other challenges in the diversity space, but I think the gender diversity on boards, and this has been pretty well researched, is an important nut to crack.”


Once again the cry has gone out for mandatory quotas to increase the number of Women on Australian company boards.  Curiously  enough, the catalyst for this latest call by lobby group Women on Boards is a report – its own 0 showing that female participation on boards of a range of organisation is growing.

This is surely good news, but not according to WOB.  Because the peoportion on women on the boards of S&P/ASX 200 companies has remained more or less static at 8.7 per cent, the progress achieved elsewhere has been dismissed as irrelevant.

Read article here

Source:  brw.com.au  |  Leo D’Angelo Fisher

Call to put women on boards‎

THE Australian Council of Superannuation Investors has given corporate Australia a three-year ultimatum to substantially increase the number of women on company boards.

If companies failed to do so, the ACSI would press for regulatory change, ACSI president Michael O’Sullivan warned yesterday.

“If there is not a major shift in that time — the full three-year board electorate cycle — we will press for regulatory change,” he said. “Women have reached leadership positions in government, public service, science, education and the professions, but corporate boards remain an island of recalcitrance.”

He said ASCI would expect every ASX 200 company to have at least two women directors by 2014. The ACSI represents more than 41 funds, including the not-for-profit superannuation sector which collectively invests some $250 billion in funds.

Between 2001 and 2009, there was a dip in the representation of women on Australian boards, according to a study commissioned by the ACSI.

Women accounted for only 8.3 per cent of directors of top ASX 200 companies, which “confirms deterioration in recent years of female representation on these company boards”, the report said.

Mr O’Sullivan rejected the argument that there were not enough women candidates.

“There are high-calibre women available, but you will not find them if you refuse to look,” he said.

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