Membership criteria

Chief Executive Women (CEW) is the pre-eminent organisation representing Australia’s most senior women leaders from the corporate, public service, academic and not for profit sectors. Founded in 1985, CEW has over 500 members whose shared vision is ‘women leaders enabling women leaders’.

CEW has an unwavering focus on including the most senior women in Australia as members regardless of where they live, their mode of employment (executive or non-executive) and the type of organisation they lead (not for profit, public or private sector). Women leaders who enable women leaders.

Membership is offered to women who meet the CEW membership criteria. Members retain membership even if at a point in the future a member no longer meets the role requirements of the CEW membership criteria. Provided that members continue to pay annual membership dues and comply with the Constitution and Code of Conduct of Chief Executive Women.

Selection Process

Nominations for membership can only be made and seconded by current CEW members, who have been members for longer than 12 months. The process to determine whether a nominee meets the criteria for membership is rigorous, objective and fair. It involves assessments of:

  • the nomination documents,
  • information of the type included in a CV,
  • two referees,
  • support from the Executive Search Firm assisting the Membership Committee,and
  • extensive review and discussion by the Membership Committee and CEW Board.

The Membership Committee aims for a breadth of experience and geographical representation in each year’s intake. From time to time, exceptions may be made to the criteria, based upon a nominee’s calibre and contribution.

Detailed Selection Criteria

The key requirement for membership of CEW is that members are chosen on the basis that they have a demonstrated track record:

  • of leadership – leadership in their chosen field;
  • of significant influence – demonstrated in accordance with the further guidance provided below;
  • as a thought leader – demonstrated thought leadership and vision; and
  • as a role model – being a role model for women in Australia.

When considering potential new CEW members, the Membership Committee is mindful of whether nominees have a career history at the highest levels of Australian community or internationally that demonstrates these requirements, a history of principled decision-making and evidence of the nominees’ contribution in supporting and enabling women leaders within their own spheres of influence.

A nominee may be an Australian citizen or permanent resident living offshore, or a foreign national residing and working in Australia in a role that would meet the criteria.


Leadership may be demonstrated through one or more significant roles at the highest levels of Australian community or internationally held by the proposed nominee. During its deliberations of the merits of a proposed nominee, the following guidelines will be used by the Membership Committee in defining what constitutes leadership:

  • CEW’s overall objective to achieve growth in diversity across its membership base, including but not limited to geography
  • CEW’s core values of collegiality, altruism, authenticity, respect and vision
  • Whether the nominee is a leader in their chosen field
    • achieving one or more senior roles in organisations which are of significance to Australia (further specific criteria relating to public companies, professional services firms, Government, universities, not for profit, industry or professional associations, entrepreneurs, senior members of the Australian Judiciary are set out in further detail below.
    • highly respected by peers and their business community
    • performing at a high capacity (both currently and consistently)
    • demonstration of significant achievements
    • demonstration of significant influence within Australian community.
  • Whether the nominee has demonstrated thought leadership and vision
    • an ability to isolate critical issues and get resources in place to achieve key objectives
    • expertise in forming a vision of what can be achieved and then challenges self and others to get the desired result
    • expressing ideas in ways that builds commitment, even if unfamiliar or unpopular
  • Is the candidate a role model for women in Australia?
    • a reputation for honesty, integrity, innovation and courage
    • respects and works effectively with diverse people, enabling all to contribute their best work and develop professionally
    • energy, interest and motivation to contribute meaningfully to the community
    • demonstrating an active commitment to the promotion of women
    • universally respected for her generosity of spirit

Leadership Categories.

Nominees must satisfy at least one of the following Leadership Categories to be eligible for nomination.

CEW uses the following Leadership Category criteria to assess whether a candidate has a significant role:

1. Corporate

  • chief executive of a significant ASX listed public company or comparable enterprise;
  • non-executive director of an ASX20 listed public company or comparable enterprise; and/or portfolio of non-executive directorships that includes top 100 listed public, comparable private companies or major federal state or local government instrumentalities;
  • direct report to the Chief Executive Officer (or an equivalent role) and:
    • divisional chief executive or an executive director with line responsibility of a top 100 listed public or comparable division of an ASX100 listed public company, private company or major investment bank; or
    • senior executive role (including Chief Financial Officer, Chief Information Officer, Chief Human Resources Officer, Chief Operating Officer) in an ASX50 listed company.
  • direct report to a divisional chief executive or executive committee member of an ASX10 listed public company; and have significant line responsibility demonstrated by one or more of the following:
    • a significant proportion of revenue relative to the total revenue of the company;
    • scope (i.e. significance and complexity); or
    • sets strategy for business unit.

 2. Professional Services

  • be a chief executive of a significant professional or consulting firm; or own or control in partnership or joint venture with others, a substantial legal, accounting, consulting or advertising firm with national coverage:
    • In keeping with our membership criteria, CEW only appoints the most senior women from a professional services firm. These criteria include:
      • the professional services firm should be a nationally or globally operating firm;
      • the candidate may hold a global or national leadership role within the partnership, for example Chief Executive Officer or Chairman of the Board of Partners;
      • the candidate may hold a national leadership role within the partnership such as Chief Operating Officer or national/global head of a significant client practice group (this role should report to the Chief Executive Officer or equivalent);
      • generally, candidates who are on the board of a partnership will not be considered unless they also have other qualifying roles;
      • generally, candidates who have a managing partner role for people/human resources will not be considered unless they also have other qualifying roles;
      • generally, candidates who are the head of a national industry group will not be considered unless they also have other qualifying roles; and
      • generally, candidates who are a partner of a professional services firm will not be considered unless they also have other qualifying roles – note that the category where a candidate owns or controls in partnership or joint venture with others, a substantial legal, accounting, management, consulting or advertising firm does not generally apply to a partner of a major national or international professional services firm.


  • leadership role at the most senior levels of government or the public service e.g. Departmental Secretary.
  • chief executive of a major federal or state government instrumentality.

 4. Universities

  • Vice Chancellor of an Australian university

 5. Not for Profit

  • chief executive of a significant and substantial organisation in the not-for-profit sector and such organisation must have significant national or international scale (including by revenue, numbers of employees or cost of doing business), lighthouse influence, scope, impact, reach and reputation

 6. Industry or Professional Association

  • chief executive of a significant and substantial industry or professional association and such association must have significant national or international influence, scope and reputation.

 7. Entrepreneur

  • founder and chief executive or founder and executive chair of a significant publicly listed or comparable private company having as an entrepreneur, taken either her own idea or with the consent of a third party, an existing idea that has been developed in another market, and will have remained as either the Chief Executive or executive chair of the company. The company must have significant national or international presence (including by influence, revenue (guide: generates in excess of A$50 million per annum), number of employees or cost of doing business.)

 8. Senior Members of the Australian Judiciary

  • current member of the High Court of Australia, Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia, Chief Justice of a State Supreme Court or President of the Court of Appeal of a State Supreme Court.

Specific Criteria Relating to Significant Influence

  • Exercise significant national power and influence by virtue of the current and/or previous senior leadership roles as they relate to the leadership categories above.
  • In keeping with our membership criteria, the following guidelines define national power and influence (as part of significant national power and influence consideration, using a ‘checklist’ to consider the following as a minimum):
    • specific Membership Criteria applied with attention to breadth of experience, calibre/contribution and Leadership Contribution and a clear demonstrated track record as an executive/position of influence in their industry;
    • social influence across various attributes such as economic, cultural and political, which enables a broad sphere of influence e.g. personal impact in one State has led to positive change in other States.
    • other roles currently held and those held in the last two years that add to the individual’s significant power and influence and ability to meet other Membership Criteria;
    • recognition of the organisation or person at a national level, such as profile, power and influence beyond the location of origin in a national role e.g. national P&L, leader of a professional services sector, national leader of an industry association or organisation they are CEO of has some national or international significance/recognition