Women in leadership on the rise - but gender gap still wide
One in three (34 per cent) of business operators are women and their numbers are rising.
A 2015 report prepared by the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed a 46 per cent increase in the number of women business operators over the past two decades. The proportionate increase represents almost twice that of men (27 per cent increase) over the same period.
In June 2014 there were 668,670 women business operators in Australia, a figure that has grown slowly but steadily over the last two decades from 459,100 in June 1994.
Despite this increase, the number of women as business operators or in managerial roles remains far too low. The rise itself, while positive, represents only an increase of around three percentage points in the last twenty years from 31 per cent in June 1994.
Much has been said about capturing the full potential of economic growth through the empowerment of women. That is, the full economic integration of women into our economy.
What needs to be recognised is that this has moved significantly from simply being the “right thing to do” to having evidence show that it is in fact the smart thing to do.
The 2015 Global Gender Gap Report almost unsurprisingly reveals that where the gender gap is smaller in a range of areas—including access to education, health survivability, economic participation, and political participation—countries and economies are more competitive and prosperous.
A Goldman Sachs paper notes that a reduction in barriers to female labour force participation would increase the size of America’s GDP by 9 per cent. The Euro Zone’s GDP would rise by 13 per cent and Japan’s by 16 per cent.
So not only do we have a strong social obligation, we also have a strong business case to break down market barriers and the social norms that prevent the full participation of women in the economy.
Research has shown a correlation between the number of women on boards and higher corporate profits. Companies with more women board directors outperform by 66 per cent in terms of return on invested capital, by 53 per cent in terms of return on equity, and by 42 per cent in terms of return on sales.
What is happening right now is that we are denying ourselves the economic growth we need to build stronger societies. Issues facing women in the workplace are not only detrimental to the women that they disadvantage, but the bottom line is that these issues are in fact denying the entire population the chance to achieve greater prosperity.
The opportunities that will open up from breaking down these barriers are unsurmountable. We are heading into an era of great demographic challenges. We have an ageing population and a slowing growth rate of the country’s workforce population.
Other than the full economic integration of women in the workplace, the options to achieve dramatically positive rates of economic growth with relatively little effort are limited.
All research points to the fact that integrating women into our economies can yield a broad range of economic gains from increased profits, productivity gains, better corporate leadership, and more efficient utilization of all of our resources and talents.
But putting the economic business case aside and bringing it back to the humanity side of things, it is important to remember that gender equality is a human right. Empowered women play a critical role to the health and productivity of whole families and communities, and they improve prospects for the next generation.
Source: A Profile of AUSTRALIAN WOMEN in BUSINESS report; AUSTRALIAN BUREAU OF STATISTICS for the OFFICE FOR WOMEN, 2015.