*Top Female Executives Make Slow Progress

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Recent statistics from gender consultancy firm, 20-First, have shown that female executives are gaining ground on men when it comes to gender balance in the workplace. Although research shows growth in the number of female executives both in the US and Europe, closer inspection reveals there?s a long way to go.

60% of the top U.S. companies now have at least two women on their executive committees and eight companies have a female CEO. However, of the 1,164 executive committee members of America?s Top 100 companies, the ratio is still 83% men to 17% women, and two thirds of these women are in staff or support positions (65%) such as HR, Communications or Legal. Only 35% are in line or operational roles ? and there has been no significant change in these percentages over the last three years.

Meanwhile, European companies are also making slow progress to balance their executive teams. Less than a third (29%) of European companies have at least two women on their Executive Committees. However, this is better than the 20% in 2011. None have a female CEO. Of the 1,025 executive committee members of Europe?s Top 100 companies, men continue to dominate (89%). The majority of female executive committee members (58%) are in staff or support roles, slightly better than in the US.

Meanwhile Asian (including Australian) companies are far behind their Western counterparts when it comes to workplace gender balance amongst executives. 89% of companies have less than two women on their leadership team. Of the 1,099 members of Executive Committees, 96% are men and of the 42 women within that category, two thirds of them are in staff or support roles.

The differences across geographical regions show the impact of national culture on the prioritisation of gender balance. Leadership is the key element in improving the balance at the top, with the companies that are most balanced having achieved this status by proactively adapting their corporate cultures and mindsets to the 21st century.

As Westpac CEO Gail Kelly, who retired in November, once said: “It’s up to every leader to call out gender equality as a key priority for their organisation. It takes more than just words; you need a clear plan with measurable outcomes”.

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