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Women in business still not on par financially

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Women in business have made giant strides in terms of gender equality in the workforce in recent years, setting a strong example for fellow females to break through the glass ceiling and achieve career excellence on par with, and even exceeding, that of their male counterparts.

With the release of the annual list of Australia’s top-earning CEOs and senior executives yesterday, a sense of equality in the community of women in business has been shattered. Despite ground gained in leveling the gender playing field in the workforce, the survey reveal disparity between female and male positions and salaries still exists. 

The survey, commissioned and published by the Australian Financial Review, is the 12th annual survey of executive salaries in 2010. Of the top 250 highest paid CEOs and executive chairmen in this year’s edition, only five are women.

Westpac’s Gail Kelly (who made headlines as number eight on Forbes’ list of the world’s most powerful women) and Singtel’s Chua Kong are the only two women who make salaries of more than $3 million per annum. Sue Morphet of Pacific Brands, Nicole Hollows of Macarthur Coal and Katie Page of Harvey Norman are the three remaining women on the list of top paid CEOs.

Executive director of Women on Boards, Claire Braund, says the survey highlights gender inequalities in the workforce and its impacts upon financial remuneration and promotion opportunities.

“The fact that just two per cent of our highest paid CEOs are women is frightening when you think about what this means in terms of the trickle-down effects,” says Braund. “It is not hard to see why we have an 18 per cent gender pay gap and a looming crisis with women’s retirement income in this country when you look at these figures.”

However, one company stood as a shining example of gender equality in its upper management. Three women from telecommunications company Austar made the list of highest paid senior executives in the media sector – Dana Strong, chief operating officer, Deanne Weir, director corporate development, and Nikki Warburton, group director products sales and marketing – and accounted for three of five females from Austar who made the list.

“These startling figures made me rush off to the Austar website where I discovered that nine of the 19-member executive team are women – an astounding 47 per cent,” says Braund.

Other women to make the list of Australia’s highest-paid senior executives fragmented into different sectors included CEO of Target, Laura Inman, and executive director finance and strategy at Origin, Karen Moses.

In total, there were 10 females who made the list of highly paid corporates, from a total list of 330. This accounts for three per cent.

“It’s a fact we all need to be appalled and seriously concerned about because of the long-term implications for women in Australia,” says Braund. With such a devastating ratio of women to men in highly-paid corporate positions, hopes are high to reveal far better results in next year’s survey. We owe it to the future of women in business.

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For more inspiring stories of women in business, excelling in their industries, and defying the status quo, visit our Women in Business homepage.

Published on: Tuesday, November 23, 2010

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