Results from a survey conducted by the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) Victoria & Tasmania have revealed a major concern about the retention of women in the workforce. Eighty-five percent of more than 3,000 executives surveyed believe ‘more needs to be done’ to keep women in the workforce, supported by 80 percent of CEOs/Board directors surveyed and 87 percent of senior managers.
“Australia’s ageing population and resources rich economy mean that employers are no longer confident of accessing the skills they need to drive profits and performance. In this business environment, we will see more organisations make it a strategic priority to stop the female ‘brain drain’,” said Susan Heron, CEO of AIM VT.
The ‘Retaining Women in the Workforce’ survey, where 38 percent of participants were men, indicated that women’s skills and capabilities as managers are more highly rated than those of their male counterparts across 16 performance indicators such as leadership, decision making and customer focus. Only the ‘problem solving’ measure saw men equal women.
However, Heron reported that although more than 50 percent of Australia’s tertiary graduates are women, less than 15 percent of senior executives were female: “That underutilisation of talent is simply not sustainable.”
The survey found that ‘flexible working arrangements’ was the most important factor to retain women in the workforce, followed by ‘workplace culture’ and ‘childcare support’. More than 70 percent of respondents indicated that having a child affects a woman’s ability to achieve her career goals, and many said their organisation’s practices for transitioning women back to work after maternity leave needed improvement.
The top three reasons for why respondents thought there were fewer women in senior executive positions were ‘family commitments’ (67%), ‘workplace culture’ (61%) and ‘inflexible working arrangements’ (54%).
Other key factors were equal pay (which 31 percent more women than men found to be an issue), Board quotas (with 62 percent of women favouring ‘Industry and business groups to set voluntary targets for organisations to meet’), the importance of a woman’s contribution to the household income, and expected working life, with more than two-thirds of women considering it normal for women to work until retirement age.