New research in the US has found that women working in a high-ranking position in a company are more often fired than their male counterparts.
A survey by Strategy& found that two out of three times women are “pushed off the glass cliff”, whereas men are only fired a quarter of the time.
Even though this research was based on US statistics, American female CEOs still outnumber Australian female CEOs, 4 per cent to 3 per cent.
In 2012 the Australian Bureau of Statistics released a report on Australian Social Trends, focusing on women in leadership. It found within the top 200 ASX companies only 3 per cent of boards had a woman as chair, and only seven companies had a female CEO.
Terry Fitzsimmons, a senior lecturer at University of Queensland Business School, told the Women and Leadership Australia conference in Perth that women remain behind the eight ball despite the issue's prominence in studies and the media.
“Women make up nearly 60 per cent of educated Australians, so it's not a pipeline issue,” he says. “At this rate it will take 300 years to get to 50-50 in Australia, so something has to change. This is not seen as a problem, so nothing is being done.
“We know the issues but have not seen a change … and they are soluble.”
While the result from the study sounds like bad news for women trying to get the top jobs, Gary Neilson, co-author of the report, believes the data in fact shows an improving situation.
“The data is clear – being an outsider is a tough situation,” Neilson says.
He says companies are getting better at developing internal female executive talent, rather than sourcing from outside the company. Women may be forced out of companies faster, but they are entering faster than they are exiting. The situation is, he says, improving rapidly – “but from a very small base”.