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Where do all the successful women go?

The 2006 EOWA Australian Census of Women in Leadership highlighted the stark gender imbalance in senior roles in leading Australian companies.  In Australia’s top 200 publicly listed companies, women held only 6 CEO roles and 12% of executive management positions.  Yet we know that women enter most organisations – with the exception perhaps of traditionally skewed industries, like engineering and construction for example – in equal if not greater proportions than men.  They make it to first management roles in about equal proportion, and continue to be well represented in middle management roles.  But what happens after that?

Perhaps it’s the glass ceiling (I heard one woman comment recently that it was only after she smashed through the glass ceiling that she realised there was another concrete one beyond that!), but the women I know and work with are resourceful enough to find a solution through that obstacle.  And likewise parental leave – sure, it is the major off ramp, but I’ve seen too many examples of female leaders successfully balancing parenting with careers to count it as a definitive career breaker.

So what are the other factors that cause this great divide?  Male dominated workplace politics?  Lack of female role models to build the belief it is possible?  Lack of flexibility?  Or a lack of drive or ambition to do what it takes to get the top job?

All these factors are probable contributors.  But one thing is for sure – women make great leaders, and – for many reasons – we need more of them.  So lets use our collective brainpower and passion to collectively come up with solutions that will make a real difference – to employers, employees and women in general.

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