Look at almost any Australian company’s executive management team, and the percentage of women is likely to be small. Even after decades of effort to change that reality, few business leaders—male or female—say they are satisfied with the progress that companies have made in moving women towards the top. The pace of change has been glacial, with no improvement in the last 10 years. Short of some bold actions, it will be many more decades before the representation of women in leadership comes anywhere close to achieving a critical mass, let alone equalling that of men.
Ironically, Australia’s pipeline of professional women has never been stronger. Since 1985, women have been graduating from university at higher rates than men; they have comprised approximately 60% of all graduates since 2000. These rates hold true for key disciplines, such as business and law, where females comprised 50% and 60%, respectively in 2011. These facts alone should place women among the most qualified candidates for entry-level positions and also create a suffi ciently large pool of female candidates for progression through to the highest roles. An extremely positive and important reality is that these women are ambitious. Research by Bain & Company and Chief Executive Women (CEW) over the last three years has consistently found that women aspire to become senior business leaders at almost the same rate as men.