Our History

The history of Women on Boards is linked with that of many people and organisations.  The initial concept sprang from a conversation between Ruth Medd, then president of the National Foundation for Australian Women Ltd, and Catherine Ordway, a sports lawyer, in 2000.

 

2001

The Women on Boards network is started by a group of Australian businesswomen inspired by the success of female athletes at the Sydney Olympic Games. Their objective is to help women get selected for board positions.

2002

Five women are placed on sporting boards and a number of enquiries started to come in from boards interested in appointing women on to their boards.

2003-2005

  • Women on Boards becomes a project of the National Foundation for Australian Women. It is supported by the Australian Government through its Office for Women through a $50,000 grant to develop a qualitative and quantitative survey of the gender composition of ASX500 companies. This starts WOBs proud history of being data driven.
  • The grant also assists WOB to host successful launch events in Canberra (2003), Brisbane, Tamworth and Melbourne (2004), Perth and a further event in Sydney (2005). Directors from private, public, government and non-profit organisations support the initiative along with a range of professional women's organisations.
  • Further grants totalling $35,000 supports the development of a website (www.womenonboards.org.au) as a self-help portal for our growing network of aspirant female directors and provides one of the earliest free services for organisations to post board vacancies. This was critical to our mission of improving transparency in the selection process and opportunity for women.
  • WOB secures UBS as a long term sponsor. A relationship that continues until 2010, when UBS becomes a corporate member. Ernst & Young and Blake Dawson Waldron (now Ashurst) also partner WOB to support our establishment.

2006

Women on Boards establishes as an entity in its own right (WOB Pty Ltd) with Claire Braund, Ruth Medd, Tracey Ah Hee and Julie Ankers as board members and shareholders.

2007

  • The Women on Boards signature workshops start to roll out across Australia.
  • KPMG, Qantas, EDS, HSBC, The University of South Australia and Piper Alderman join as our first corporate members.

2008

The first Women on Boards conference is held at Bondi Beach, Sydney NSW, with Liz Broderick, Sex Discrimination Commissioner, David Gonski, Chairman of Investec Bank (Australia) Limited, and Prof. Peter McGraw, Macquarie University as the keynote speakers.

2009

  • Foundation directors, Tracy Ah Hee and Julie Ankers, leave the board to pursue their other business interests.
  • Second Women on Boards Conference held at Sheraton on the Park. Keynote speaker, Arni Hole, Director General Ministry of Children & Equality, brought the house down with her presentation on how Norway views gender and the introduction of mandatory board quotas. Other speakers include Elizabeth Broderick, Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner, David Gonski AC, Chair ASX, Coca-Cola & Westfield, Katie Lahey, Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia, Chris Thomas, partner Egon Zehnder and other leading directors.

2010

  • The Boardroom Diversity Index tracking and reporting participation of women on boards across a range of sectors, including the ASX200, federal and state government boards, sport and superannuation / credit unions, is launched on International Women’s Day.
  • Women on Boards art prize for female artists inaugurated by Ruth Medd. Continues until 2014.
  • Claire Braund awarded a Churchill Fellowship to examine policies and programs in place in the UK, Norway and France to increase the number of women on boards and in management and executive roles.

2011

  • Launch of our Next Generation of Female Leaders program in partnership with UBS. A six-month program providing skills and capacity for women to move into C Suite and leadership roles.
  • The third Women on Boards conference is held in Sydney with keynote speakers including Therese Gattung, then Chair AIA and former CEO Telecom New Zealand and Elizabeth Bryan, then Chair of Caltex & UniSuper and a director at Westpac Bank & AICD. Also Alan Kohler, business journalist & company director who chaired a session with Ralph Norris, CEO Commonwealth Bank Australia and John Porter, the CEO of Austar whose mother roomed with Gloria Steinham and who grew up in the female liberation movement.
  • Claire Braund undertakes her Churchill Fellowship travels to Norway, France and the UK, where she meets Fiona Hathorn, who raises the possibility of establishing Women on Boards in the UK.
  • Ruth conducts the first Asian workshops in Singapore.

2012

  • Women on Boards launches in the UK with Fiona Hathorn, Rowena Ironside and Rachel Tranter as UK based directors and the support of foundation sponsors, PwC, Standard Bank, Thomson Reuters and Berwin Leighton Paisner. Launch events were held in Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Bristol and London following the London Olympic Games.