CEW Research

Chief Executive Women makes informed contributions to the national debate around gender balance. One of CEW’s most important achievements has been to cut through the myths surrounding women’s participation as senior executives with some hard data.

 

CEW / Bain & Company Research

In recent years, CEW and global consulting firm Bain & Company have undertaken five major studies to provide a deeper understanding of the issues facing women who aspire to leadership. Read our latest study here

2016 - The Power of Flexibility: A Key Enabler to Boost Gender Parity and Employee Engagement
2014 - Actions speak louder than words: CEO conduct that counts
2013 - Critical steps
2011 - What stops women reaching the top
2010 - Level the playing field
2016 - The Power of Flexibility: A Key Enabler to Boost Gender Parity and Employee Engagement
bain 1The Power of Flexibility is the fifth in a series of landmark gender parity surveys by global management consulting firm Bain & Company and Chief Executive Women, Australia’s pre-eminent organisation of 360–senior women leaders.

Over 1000 members of the Australian business, government and not-for-profit community responded to the survey about their use of flexible work arrangements and their perceptions of their organisations.

In order to advance gender equality in the workplace, flexible work arrangements must be available to and actively supported for both genders. Currently less than 50% of Australian organisations have a workplace flexibility policy and even when such policies exist, there are barriers to effective utilisation.

The right culture and active support are fundamental to improving employees’ experience of flexible working. Male and female respondents to the latest Bain-Chief Executive Women Survey agreed that proof of the potential to progress one’s career, visible commitment by the CEO, leadership and colleagues, and respect for boundaries are the most important factors in their experience of flexible working. Where flexible arrangements are widely used, all employees are four times happier than in organisations with no flexible options. However flexible work arrangements are not driving advocacy or confidence for men, despite strong interest in their uptake.

Bain and CEW have identified several key actions to normalise and accelerate the success of flexible working. Organisations must:

• Actively encourage and role model the uptake of flexible work arrangements
• Ensure flexible arrangements are supported and working successfully for both genders
• Create the right culture and support employee priorities of career progression, visible support from the CEO, leadership team and colleagues, and respect of boundaries
• Create clear policies around promotion and compensation when working flexibly
• Ensure technology and an agile work environment are in place and working well

Read the full report

2014 - Actions speak louder than words: CEO conduct that counts

What does it take for an organisation to truly harness the power of its employees to improve productivity and business performance? Increasingly, business leaders are realising that the answer lies in creating a positive work environment in which employees feel they can achieve their individual, and collective, full potential.

It’s a powerful force: One Gallup analysis of 50,000 companies showed that high-engagement organisations have more than 20% higher profitability and productivity levels than their low-engagement counterparts.

Bain Partner Melanie Sanders and CEW members Kathryn Fagg and Meredith Hellicar sought to understand specifically what CEOs and other leaders can do to create positive and engaging environments for both genders.

Based on survey responses from nearly 1,500 senior executives, the report found that there are critical leadership behaviours that can make major differences in employee perceptions of the organisation in general and as a place for women to progress. Importantly, these leadership behaviours affect engagement levels for both women and men, spurring higher performance (and productivity) across the board. Read more

2013 - Critical steps

2013 CEW Bain_ front page

CEW and Bain released Creating a positive cycle: critical steps to achieving gender parity in Australia in 2013 after surveying more than 800 Australian business professionals from listed and non-listed companies. We asked:

  • Would you recommend your organisation as a place to work? Why / why not
  • Would you recommend your organisation as a place where women can progress to senior leadership? Why / why not
  • Would you recommend your manager as someone to work for? Why / why not

The results discredit the notion that achieving equal representation of women in executive positions is simply a matter of time. They show that the biggest factor in enabling women to reach their full potential is the presence of women in leadership positions. As Melanie Sanders, Bain partner and co-author of the report, puts it:  “The answer is less talk and more action: appoint more women.” The report highlights that women have been graduating from university at higher rates than men since 1985, yet men have a 9-times better chance of making it to senior executive ranks than women in large corporations.  This is despite almost equal levels of ambition for senior leadership positions between women and men, according to the study. It found that women are half as likely as men to recommend their organisation as a place to work. And 53% women are detractors of their organisations as a place where women can progress to senior levels.

Bain Figure 6
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2011 - What stops women reaching the top
In 2011, CEW and Bain released their second report: What stops women from reaching the top? Confronting the tough issues. The survey of 842 Australian business professionals debunks the myth that competing work-home priorities are the greatest block for women seeking senior management roles. This is still a big issue for many women, but a majority of those surveyed felt that management style differences between women and men were far more damaging to women’s leadership prospects. The key findings are:

  • Senior leaders do not value the different perspectives that women bring to a team
  • They appoint executives with styles more like themselves
  • Men are viewed as better “promoters,” women as better “collaborators” – and whose style is more effective is crucial to the debate
  • Women and men are viewed as equally effective at making commercially-sound decisions, managing high-pressure situations and delivering transformative change

Some 60% of all respondents to this 2011 study felt that gender-specific approaches to management situations and issues are a bigger obstacle to women’s career advancement. This group includes a majority of women, at 78%. Only 39% of men surveyed agree with this. A majority of men, 61%, believe that competing work-family commitments is the main inhibitor to senior leadership roles for women.

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2010 - Level the playing field
In 2010, CEW and Bain released: Level the playing field: A call for action on gender parity in Australia. The survey of more than 1,000 Australian executives finds that they still do not believe there is an equal opportunity for women to be selected for leadership positions. Our survey shows that companies can take three measures to close the gap—and create a stronger talent pipeline.  Three main factors are blocking the path to gender balance:

  • Not enough visible, committed leadership
  • Unintended cultural barriers
  • Under investment in sustained change management
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