Women in Leadership

While Australia is making progress on many aspects of gender equality, female representation in leadership continues to be a cause for concern.

Women remain underrepresented at every stage of the career pipeline in Australia, with poor representation at the C-suite and CEO levels. In the 2017-18 WGEA dataset, only 17% of CEOs were women. Research shows that most CEO appointments come from line roles such a Chief Operating Officer and that roughly 30% of key management positions are held by women in Australia today. Many of them are in support roles such as Head of Human Resources.

Image is decorative and depicts a male and female earning the same amount of money

The Business Council of Australia, McKinsey & Company and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency teamed up to undertake a study using three years of WGEA data and more than 40 interviews. The result, Women in Leadership: Lessons from Australian companies leading the way, provides an evidence-based recipe for dismantling barriers to women’s participation at senior levels and a correlation between representation of women in senior roles and the practice of normalising flexible work.

Based on the observations of leading practice made for the report, a 10-step recipe for getting more women into leadership was designed:


1 Build a strong case for change
2 Role-model a commitment to diversity, including with business partners
3 Redesign roles and work to enable flexible work and normalise uptake across levels and genders
4 Actively sponsor rising women
5 Set a clear diversity aspiration, backed up by accountability
6 Support talent through life transitions
7 Ensure the infrastructure is in place to support a more inclusive and flexible workplace
8 Challenge traditional views of merit in recruitment and evaluation
9 Invest in frontline leader capabilities to drive cultural change
10 Develop rising women and ensure experience in key roles


Access the resources below for more information about supporting women in the workplace: