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Opinion by Jon Bragg - March 1, 2022

Most ASX companies still exhibit gender bias

Implicit gender bias has been identified at four out of five listed companies.

New research has found that implicit gender bias remains pervasive at many of Australia’s largest listed companies.

Culture change consultancy We Are Unity identified that gender-imbalanced language was used by 83 per cent of ASX 300 companies in their annual reports, while male pronouns were used three times more often than female pronouns.

Sixty per cent of companies used “chairman” regardless of the gender of the person in the role, with a total of 6,738 instances of “chairman” being used across all annual reports compared to 4,598 for “chair” or “chairperson” and just three for “chairwoman”.

We Are Unity said that companies with implicit gender bias demonstrated less social cohesion in the workforce and less emphasis on diversity and inclusion than their peers.

The firm also said that companies with greater social cohesion had been found to deliver better business outcomes.

“We are calling for all organisations across Australia to recognise that words matter when it comes to closing the gap on gender bias,” said We Are Unity chief people and culture officer Reetta Makinen.

“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.”

Metals and mining companies had the highest levels of implicit gender bias according to We Are Unity with 90 per cent of companies in the sector suffering from implicit gender bias.

High levels were also identified among oil and gas (86 per cent) and software companies (78 per cent).

In the 6.2 per cent of ASX 300 companies that had a female CEO, implicit gender bias was found to decrease to 68 per cent.

“We noticed that gendered terms are still being used to refer to the most senior positions in Australian organisations,” said behavioural economist Max Reisner.

“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 are using a label that positions the role as male-oriented.”

The article originally featured in Investor Daily