The proof is here - women are great for business

It could be the most compelling case yet for Australian companies to lift their game when it comes to gender equality and women in leadership - data shows it literally pays to have women at the top.

Having more women in senior leadership roles, sitting on boards and as CEOs leads to better profitability, productivity and performance for companies. In fact, if an Australian ASX-listed company increases the number of women in key leadership roles by 10 percentage points it will enjoy a significant boost - a 6.6 per cent increase in its market value worth the equivalent of $104.7 million. That's a lot of good reasons to embrace gender equality.

The Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC) has analysed company data collected by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and discovered that the glass ceiling that prevents women from holding high-level jobs is also holding back Australian companies.

The research shows an increase in female representation on the boards of Australian ASX-listed companies leads to a 4.9 per cent increase ($78.5 million) in market value and a female CEO will mean a company is 12.9 per cent more likely to outperform its rivals. And while Australia has more women in senior leadership roles than ever before, women still remain grossly underrepresented as key decision makers.

Women are least likely to be the Chair of the Board. In 2019 only 14.1 per cent of Board Chair positions were held by women. Board membership fares better with women making up around 30 per cent, but still 29.8 per cent of companies have no female representation on their boards at all. Two-thirds of Australian construction firms have no women on their board and 40 per cent of retail trade and accommodation companies also have no women.

Not surprisingly, the health and education sectors perform better - half of their boards include female representatives. But the sector has a share of around 70 per cent women overall. Around 30 per cent of companies still have no women in their key management teams. Australian companies clearly have a long way to go.

Leadership has never been more important as we navigate our way through the COVID-19 crisis and towards an economic recovery that workers, families and businesses are depending on. How we overcome the challenges may not be cut and dried but the data is clear - if we unlock the full potential of women at work, everybody wins.

Associate Professor Rebecca Cassells and Professor Alan Duncan are from the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre at Curtin University.

This story Women are great for business - here's proof first appeared on The Canberra Times.