2011: 100th International Women's Day: Women still marking time in the boardroom

2011: 100th International Women's Day: Women still marking time in the boardroom

8 March 2011


Women on Boards used the occasion of the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day to remind people that women occupy fewer than 25 per cent of board roles on all but Government boards, and this is not trending upwards.

Launching its 2nd Boardroom Diversity Index, the only comprehensive publicly available index that tracks the performance of key sectors in our economy on gender diversity in the boardroom, Claire Braund, co-founder of Women on Boards, said it was easy to get carried away by the media hype surrounding the ASX.

“While ASX200 boards have increased directorship positions held by women by more than two percent in the past year, there is little or no movement in any other of the key sectors in our economy,” Ms Braund said.
“The 2nd Boardroom Diversity Index shows that some sectors, such as Credit Unions and Building Societies, have gone backwards in terms of the numbers of women and there has been little improvement in their processes around selection.”

“A lot of people and organisations have suddenly found religion on the ‘women on boards’ issue, but the reality is that we are still fiddling at the margins when it comes to significantly addressing the percentage of women on boards and committees.”

Government to introduce quotas
Ms Braund said Women on Boards is calling on Governments at all levels to follow the South Australian Government example and introduce mandatory gender quotas for all publicly funded boards and committees. This includes Cooperative Research Centres, Rural Research and Development Corporations and National Sporting Organisation, which are all heavily funded by taxpayers.

“Where public money is involved there is a clear case for boards to be more gender and skills diverse. This not only improves governance and performance, but increases Australia’s standing in the international community, where it is clearly not well regarded in this area.”

Everyone else on notice
ASX companies, in particular the 85 in the ASX200 who still do not have a woman on their board, as well as Superannuation Trustees, Credit Unions and Building Societies are all on notice that they need to significantly lift their game over the next year.

“We are all praising ASX200 companies, but they need to double the rate of appointment of women this year to achieve our target of 25 per cent by 2012,” Ms Braund said.

“This is really not a difficult task as there are plenty of experienced and qualified women who are ASX board ready – without additional training.”Ms Braund said.

"Women on Boards has the CVs of approximately 2,500 board ready women from its subscription base of 10,500, 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.

Small increase in percentage of women on boards

There have been small, but encouraging, signs that the recent gains in the number of female directors on the boards of ASX200 companies are being matched in other key sectors in the economy, according to findings from the latest WOB Boardroom Diversity Index (BDI).
The BDI tracks the representation of women on the boards of 850 organisations across Australia on an annual basis. The data is current as of January 2012.
The 2012 index shows that sectors including superannuation, credit unions, health and sport have shown small increases in the percentage of women on the boards of their organisations in the past year.
Directors of Women on Boards, Claire Braund and Ruth Medd, said the 2012 BDI findings were encouraging and showed that organisations were paying attention to the issue of boardroom diversity.
However they cautioned there was still a lot of work to be done as there should be at least 40 percent of women on the boards of the majority of the organisations listed in the BDI.
"The number of organisations with more than 25 per cent women on their boards has increased and the number of those without a woman on their board has fallen, however it is still unacceptably high at 24 percent. These organisations are failing in their responsibilities to customers, shareholders and society," Ms Braund said.
The sectors with the largest increases since 2011 are the ASX200 and the Australian Government. Those with the highest representation are the State Owned Corporations in Queensland and South Australia.
Women on Boards commended the Federal Government on its 40:40:20 targets for its boards and committees, saying this would improve governance, accountability and selection and appointment processes.
“Targets are a great way of requiring organisations to broaden their search parameters and selection criteria and go beyond those areas they have traditionally used to source directors,” Ms Braund said.