Want to become a top CEO? Study science

Top CEO report science degree
12 of the top 50 CEOs in Australia have a science degree. Image: Shutterstock

Studying science at uni is the most popular pathway to becoming a top CEO in Australia, according to a new report released today.

The Australian Top 50 CEO Report 2019 was published by corporate communications agency, Apollo Communications. The report provides a snapshot of the leaders of the top 50 companies listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).

The findings are a great reminder of the transferability of STEM skills in the corporate world. According to the report, 12 of Australia’s top 50 CEOs studied science at university, making it equal first with commerce as the most popular undergraduate degree. This was followed by having no degree at all as the next most popular pathway.

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Four of the CEOs also have a Bachelor of Engineering, while two of Australia’s corporate leaders – Alan Joyce of Qantas and Jean-Sebastian Jacques of mining giant Rio Tinto – also completed a Masters of Science. The CEO of BHP, Andrew Mackenzie, has a PhD in chemistry and the CEO of James Hardie, Jack Truong, has a PhD in chemical engineering – although more than half (56%) of the CEOs have no postgraduate qualifications at all.

However, just like the gender gap in STEM, there remains a serious under-representation of women at the top levels of corporate Australia. There are just three women among the top 50 CEOs in Australia – Elizabeth Gaines (Fortescue), Shemara Wikramanayake (Macquarie Bank) and Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz (Mirvac).

Cultural and ethnic diversity was a more positive story, with 48% of the top CEOs born overseas – higher than the overall proportion of Australians born overseas (33%). The average age of the top CEOs is 54.

Thinking about studying science? Take our quiz to find out which area of science is for you

Gemma Chilton

Author: Gemma Chilton

Gemma is the Managing Editor of Careers with STEM magazine. She has previously worked as Digital Managing Editor at Australian Geographic and a staff writer at Cosmos science magazine.

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