Australia outperforms US and UK in gender equality

18 March 2020 3 min. read

New research by Kearney shows that Australia is among the leading markets in the world when it comes to gender parity in the workplace, performing ahead of the UK, the US and India.

To come to its findings on gender equality, the global management consultancy looked at two key metrics: the percentage of female representation in parliament, and the percentage of female representation on the boards of listed private companies.

While Australia exceeds the other three countries assessed on both fronts, the numbers however remain far from ideal. Australia has 84 female Members of Parliament (MP), taking female representation in parliament to 37%. According to the researchers, this number has jumped after the recent elections in Australia, prior to which there were 77 female MPs in the country. The number exceeds female representation in the UK, which is the closest behind with nearly 34% representation.

Country comparison in gender parity

The US and India lag far behind with just over 23% and 14% respectively. When it comes to female representation on private boards, Australia again ranks top, just ahead of the UK, with women occupying 34% of all board positions in Australia’s largest companies versus UK’s 33.1%. Similarly, gender parity in the US and India is far behind, at 28% and 16% respectively.

Across private sector boardrooms, there is significant variety in performance between sectors. The financial services industry – banks, insurance companies, asset & wealth managers and fintechs – are front runners in gender parity policies and performance, distantly followed by the non-energy materials sector. The consumer and industrials sector also ranks among the ‘leaders’, but lags much further behind.

According to Kearney (one of the globe’s top management consulting firms), Australia is well aware of the much needed steps that still need to be taken. A 2018 report by McKinsey & Company found that a staggering $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women's equality. Reaching this state would however require a strong concerted effort from the public, private and social sectors.

According to the Australian Institute of Company Directors, large stock listed companies should, as a first milestone in the journey to gender equality, rapidly aim for achieving a board representation structure of 40% female, 40% male and 20% open.

Gender parity distribution by sector

Specifically for Australia’s case, a recent KPMG report revealed that developing a more gender balanced workforce in Australia by increasing female participation could generate as much as $60 billion in GDP benefits. Questions remain on how to further this agenda, with some arguing that increasing male engagement is central to achieving this goal.

Intersectionality is often a hurdle, said Ramyani Basu, a partner at Kearney in the UK and a diversity & inclusion evangelist. “The outlook is much bleaker for women who identify as part of an underrepresented group related to their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or ability,” she said.

At any rate of progress, Kearney warns that gender equality is still a long way off. “For every milestone reached on progress toward gender equality, there are many more accounts of gender inequality. According to the World Economic Forum, anyone old enough to read this is unlikely to see gender equality in the workplace in their lifetime.”