Ok 2016, here's where we landed on women in leadership and the pay gap

Yes it's the year 2016. No, that still doesn't mean we're anywhere close to gender parity when it comes to women in key leadership and representative positions. 

The world we know, live and work in now allows us to run businesses from powerful mobile devices, determine the makeup of food and drinks from a handheld gadget, and access and use affordable camera drones.

But this world still can't elect and appoint one half of the population to its fair share of one half of key decision-making positions. 

We like to think that the number of women in key leadership and representative positions simply improves with time. 

While it may take a long time to reach parity on key positions (at least 170 years according to the World Economic Forum), surely the problem will at least sort itself out as the years and decades roll on. 

But time also proves that time alone will not solve the problem. 

And it's not only that progress can stagnate, but that the progress achieved can actually disappear. 

On the global stage, we're about to see a significant shift on so-called progress for women in leadership. It was only a few months ago we were talking up the possibility that women could dominate the world's most powerful positions by January 2017. Hillary Clinton would be elected president and introduce a gender equal cabinet (Trump was elected instead), Theresa May would continue as UK PM (she'll face the polls in 2017) , Christine Lagarde would continue leading the IMF (she's just been found guilty of negligence), and Angela Merkel would continue as German Vice Chancellor (while she's announced she's running for a 4th term in 2017, she's got an uphill battle ahead). 

Women don't run the world, have never run the world, and don't look set to run the world anytime soon.

So let's have a look domestically. 

This year's Federal Election sent the number of women elected to Liberal seats backwards, with just 18 of 84 such seats now female. Despite women being so seriously underrepresented in the governing party, the total number of women in Parliament has actually risen from 69 (or 31%) to 73 (32%), largely thanks to the Labor Party. These figures are comparable to Canada (29% female) and New Zealand (31% female). 

There is better news when it comes to ASX 200 boards. The AICD's recent report found 25% of ASX 200 board positions are now held by women, up from just 8.3% in 2009. The AICD looks on track to see a 30% target for women on boards become a reality by the end of 2018. But that's just the ASX 200, where such boards are heavily scrutinised on gender diversity both in the media and by shareholders. The rate of female directors falls significantly when you look at all listed entities. As part of its December report, the AICD also looked at the make-up of 23 boards to have completed an IPO during the 1st quarter of this financial year, finding only 7% of their board directors were female.

At the CEO level, just 10% of CEOs on the ASX 200 are female, a figure that can quickly go down with a resignation or two. Looking at a wider range of public and private businesses, data from the Workplace Gender Equality (WGEA) revealed women now hold 16.3% of CEO roles and 37.4% of management roles.  

Over the weekend, Fairfax papers looked at the retail sector, where around 60% of employees are women but not one of Australia's leading retail brands has a woman at the top. Target, Coles, Woolworths, Bunnings, Myer, Kmart, David Jones, JB Hi-Fi and now Big W (following the resignation of Sally McDonald) are all run by men.

There's been some progress on the national pay gap, now at 16.2% according to ABS data, down from 18.8% in early 2015 but still up from 14.9% in 2004. WGEA found the pay gap when comparing full and complete remuneration (including bonuses) to be at a massive 23.1%, although that was at least slightly down 1.6% from last year

This year, musician (and man) Bono made Glamour magazine's Women of the Year list, and the fictional Wonder Woman was appointed an honorary UN ambassador -- although the latter was scrapped from the role, with the UN admitting the appointment sent the wrong message. Industry conferences and events continued to feature male-dominated speaker lineups, the mainstream media continued to underquote women -- especially in the business and financial pages -- and investors continued to favour male entrepreneurs over female founders

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declared that women hold up "half the sky". But women certainly don't hold up half of his Cabinet positions. Or half of any key leadership and representative positions across any sector.

2016 was not a game-changing year for women in leadership. It was another year or waiting -- hoping -- that time would create the change that's needed. And so we try again in 2017. Waiting, hoping, once again.  


Angela Priestley

Angela Priestley is the Publisher and founding editor of Women's Agenda. She's an author, journalist and passionate advocate for workplace gender equality and diversity. Her first book is Women Who Seize the Moment.

Stay Smart, Get Savvy

Must-know news for Professional Women

Stay Smart, Get Savvy!

Must-know news for Professional Women