Sydney, Feb 28: A new study into gender imbalance within Australia’s top 300 publicly-listed organisations found 83 per cent used gender-imbalanced language, with three out of five organisations using the masculine chairman when referring to their chair.
The analysis, devised by the transformation consultancy, We Are Unity, undertook a gender-based language analysis to identify the extent of implicit gender bias in Australia’s corporate governance.
The study found that male pronouns were used three times more often overall within the top 300 ASX.
The largest implicit gender bias detected in annual reports is in the metals and mining sector. The report found 90 per cent of companies in this sector suffer from an implicit gender bias followed by oil and gas companies (86 per cent) and software companies (78 per cent).
Those with implicit gender bias in their annual reports were also found to have less social cohesion in the workforce, with less emphasis on diversity and inclusion than their peers.
We Are Unity’s Chief People and Culture Officer Reetta Makinen said the findings confirm that there is an action gap to breaking the bias across Australia’s ASX 300.
“We are calling for all organisations across Australia to recognise that words matter when it comes to closing the gap on gender bias,” she said.
“We know that organisations with greater social cohesion deliver better business outcomes.
“Our hope is that these findings will give Australia’s leaders pause for thought about how they represent people, roles and stories of impact across their business and spur a pathway for change.”
The study found female representation in leadership teams is on par with the gender bias identified, with just one in four or 25 per cent of executive roles held by females.
The proportion of women leading ASX 300 entities is 6.2 percent, with 18 women in such positions.
Organisations with a female CEO see the implicit gender bias decreased to 68 per cent from 83 per cent.
“We noticed that gendered terms are still being used to refer to the most senior positions in Australian organisations,” behavioural economist Max Reisner said.
“Take the chair for example, three out of five organisations still refer to their chairman of the board, regardless of if the role is held by a male or female.
“While it’s positive to see that 40 per cent now use the UN and Diversity Council recommended chair or chairperson, the majority of organisations (60 per cent) are using a label that positions the role as male-oriented.”
Overall, We Are Unity’s study has found gender-balanced and gender-biased reports across each sector and industry in the ASX 300.
This is a clear indication that breaking the bias and building diverse workforces that value all genders – male, female, non-binary or other – is a choice, not a symptom of the demographics of an industry or organisation.
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