2010: A benchmark for gender diversity on boards

2010: A benchmark for gender diversity on boards

Women on Boards, the leading advocate and broker of women into board roles, released the Boardroom Diversity Index to kick start effective measurement and reporting of women’s participation on boards.

The index covers female participation on 774 boards from ASX200 companies, credit unions, superannuation funds regulated by APRA, national sporting organisations, Cooperative Research Centres, rural research and development corporations and top government boards in NSW, Queensland, South Australia and nationally. *

Claire Braund, Executive Director of Women on Boards, said that International Women’s Day 2010 represented a benchmark for gender diversity on boards.

"Female participation on boards in these key sectors should never again fall below the numbers we have published today," she said.

"Most sectors have at least 20 per cent female directors, with the glaring exception of the ASX200 at 8.7 per cent - an embarrassing statistic for Australia's leading business index."

In November 2009, Women on Boards called for ASX200 companies to achieve a minimum of 25 per cent female directors by 2012 or it would be advocating for the introduction of mandatory quotas.

"We issue a similar challenge to the other sectors whose data has been published today to achieve minimum of 40 per cent female directors in the same timeframe.“

"There are a large number of qualified and experienced women seeking directorships in Australia who would be very willing to serve on the boards of the organisations surveyed.

"Women on Boards has the CVs of approximately 1,500 board ready women from its subscription base of 7,500, so here is a good starting point for any organisations not sure where to look," Ms Braund said.

Women on Boards has a free vacancy posting service for companies seeking to advertise to high quality female applicants and will conduct private searches on request.

Industry regulation improving gender diversity on ASX200 boards

Women on Boards welcomes the news that more than 20 per cent of director appointments to ASX200 companies in 2010 have been women.

Executive director, Claire Braund, says this contrasted sharply with 2009 *, when only five percent of appointments were women.

"This has seen the number of women on ASX200 company boards increase from 8.7 per cent at the end of 2009 to 9.2 per cent in June 2010."

Ms Braund said she was expecting even more improvements by January 2011 when the changes to the ASX Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations, requiring companies to report on gender at board and senior management levels, came into effect.

"It is quite clear that the top end of town has made a grab for female directors ahead of these amended guidelines coming into force. This clearly demonstrates that it is really not that difficult to find high performing women to sit on ASX boards."

"It also strongly supports the case for regulation to encourage companies to take action to address the paucity of women in senior ranks."

"Collecting gender data, setting targets and publicly reporting outcomes will become a whole new way of doing business for many ASX companies from 2011," Ms Braund said.

However, while the percentage of women on ASX200 boards is creeping up, there are still 101 companies in that group without a woman on their board.

"These companies clearly need to get on board on the gender issue."

"Move down the ASX and things start to look even worse. Just 4.3 per cent of board seats on ASX 201-300 companies are occupied by women (24 of 553 directors) and you could fire a cannon into the boardrooms of ASX 300 + companies and not hit a woman."

Ms Braund said that since the issue of gender diversity was debated at the Women on Boards Conference in September 2009, it had remained firmly on the public agenda.

"We are gratified that many business groups have moved to implement gender diversity programs ahead of the start date for the new ASX Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations."

Ms Braund said while many of these programs were a step in the right direction, they were not the panacea to the wider problems of indentifying new board ready female talent and engendering cultural change in the boardrooms and workplaces across Australia.

"For this to occur we need to rethink and re-engineer our entire way of doing business - and that requires a willingness to give up the status quo," she said

Braund said that gender diversity was just like any other business benchmark that needed to be set, tracked and reported against. 

“Accountability is the key to success. To really kick start change ASX companies must set and report against gender KPIs for senior leadership and board roles and tie these to executive remuneration.”

*[In 2009, female participation on ASX200 company board showed a marginal increase the number of women on boards, up from 8.3 per cent in 2008 to 8.7 per cent in 2009. The percentage of companies without a female director marginally increased in 2009 to 53 per cent. There were fewer female directors on the boards of ASX200 companies in South Australia and Western Australia than in any other states.]