Australian companies are still failing to promote women into senior management positions, prompting calls for quotas and executive bonuses tied to increasing the number of females in top jobs.
The latest census of women in leadership roles, to be released on Tuesday, found that while the number of female directors has increased there had been ''negligible change'' in women at senior management level - 9.7 per cent compared to 8 per cent in 2010.
The number of female directors at the 200 largest listed companies increased from 8.4 per cent in 2010 to 12.3 per cent.
But most of these are non-executive roles - fewer than 1 per cent of executive directors in Australia are female. The census does not include appointments made since April 2012.
''We have been conducting the census for 10 years and, frankly, you would expect to see more progress,'' the director of the government's Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, Helen Conway, said. Ms Conway also suggested managers be held to account and remunerated to meet gender diversity targets.
Within the pipeline of Australians heading for senior leadership roles there are 2148 men compared to just 141 women. This puts Australia decades behind comparable economies, according to the agency.
A survey by the Australian Institute of Company Directors found the number of companies without any female directors dropped from 52 per cent in 2010 to 38 per cent. It found 39 women were appointed to boards in 2012, compared to 68 appointments in 2011.
But when boards do hire women they keep dipping into the same talent pool - nearly a quarter of female directors hold multiple directorships, compared to just 14.3 per cent of men. There are 15 women who sit on at least three boards.
While 61.5 per cent of companies have at least one woman, this may not be enough to have effective female influence. Female directors are treated more seriously and have more impact if there are at least three on a board, according to the agency. But just 3 per cent of companies had three female directors at April 2012.
Non-executive director on three boards, Sylvia Falzon, says change must start at the board level.
''People have got to have the mind-set asking why, when certain positions become available within an organisation and we get the short-list, why are we not getting enough female representation?''
Women often felt there was an expectation they had to ''tick all the boxes'' when they saw senior positions or directorships advertised, but Ms Falzon said she did not believe organisations expected individual candidates to tick every box.
The largest companies in Australia have appointed more women to their boards than smaller companies. However there is one company in the top 20 that still has no women on its board and just one female in its executive team, the head of external relations - Fortescue.
A spokeswoman said 23 per cent of Fortescue’s staff is female and 13 per cent of its managers are female.
‘‘Fortescue chairman Andrew Forrest said at the company’s recent AGM that Fortescue was looking to diversify the board with the appointment of a woman in the future,’’ she said.
There was no specific date given for when that would take place.