Gillard opens fire on glass ceiling

THE glass ceiling is cracked but not yet shattered, Prime Minister Julia Gillard told a group of female business leaders yesterday, as she looked forward to a future in which it was so normal to have a female prime minister that ''no one even talks about her hair any more''.

Only 3 per cent of ASX 200 companies had female CEOs, Ms Gillard said, and women were under-represented on the boards of major companies.

The ratio of women on boards stood at 14 per cent, which was ''certainly not good enough'', she said.

''If you believe as I do … that merit is equally distributed between the sexes … then it means that women of merit that should be there aren't there.''

Ms Gillard's strong remarks, made at a Women in Leadership lunch organised by The Australian Financial Review, formed part of a week-long campaign to engage with women's issues.

Yesterday the Prime Minister hosted a morning tea at Kirribilli House for female bloggers and on Monday Ms Gillard took to a popular ''mummy blog'' to answer questions about childcare. The Prime Minister also discussed her own political struggles. ''Recently I got the best compliment of my lifetime … when it was said about me that 'Gillard will not lay down and die','' she said - an allusion to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's recent remarks to his party room.

Ms Gillard told the female business leaders the government would fund a second round of Australian Institute of Company Directors board diversity scholarships, which give ''board-ready'' women access to training.