'We could see the gender agenda needed changing'
Claire Braund on why she co-founded Women on Boards
Claire and Ruth Medd believed that the best way to influence the gender agenda was to start the slow process of moving women into board and leadership roles, so they could in turn make change.
"When we started in 2006 the ASX200 had around 7% female directors - in 2023 its close to 40%. Other sectors have seen similar change, but there is always work to be done. Turn off the spotlight and turn on the floodlight and give everyone an equal opportunity to participate and succeed."
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HISTORY OF WOMEN ON BOARDS - A TIMELINE
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- WOB launches a new global website at www.womenonboards.net
- Women on Boards launches the WOBSX program to facilitate members onto ASX listed companies with a KPI of 25% of participants achieving an ASX board within two years of completing the program.
- Nicole Donegan joins the WOB team as Chief Operating Officer.
- Ninth and final Next Generation of Female Leaders program held in Sydney.
- Partners with INSEAD International Directors Program.
- Women on Boards launches its WOB Shop which allows the offering of third party products that are consistent with our ethos. Partnerships announced with the Governance Institute of Australia, GovernWith and others.
- Women on Boards responds to the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic with online programs to support its members. This includes fortnightly WOBChat sessions.
- Women in Leadership program launched in partnership with CPA Australia. Includes outreach to Solomon Islands women seeking to become CPAs and improve financial governance in their country.
- Signature workshop, Getting Started: Realising your board potential' is revamped for purely virtual delivery.
- New programs launched to support our NED members. Includes series on ESG and Cyber with corporate partners, McGrathNicol and Grant Thornton.
- Move back to face to face networking events in all states. Includes mid year and Christmas lunch events.
- Personal Career Management program is launched with a face to face component.
- Restructure of the company with retirement of co-founder Ruth Medd, who also steps down as WOB Australia Chair.
- April 2023 - Sheena Wilson becomes only the second chair of WOB Australia.