2016: Women on Boards celebrates years of hard work

WOB celebrated 10 years of hard work in 2016 with the numbers of women on serving on boards continuing its slow trend upward across most sectors.

2016: Women on Boards celebrates years of hard work

Summary Report of Sectors Measured in the 2016 BDI

Researched and written by WOB interns Jack Thrower, Victoria Ter Kuile and Sarah Waterhouse.

ASX Listed Companies

Generally the more highly valued companies continue to outperform those further down the list, with ASX50 the best performer. There are some signs of marked improvement in this area however, the ASX200 providing the greatest improvement in representation, a 2.5% increase, indicating a substantial increase in the ASX101-200.

Companies whose shares are registered in Western Australia have performed markedly poorer than other states when shares of total directors and total female directors are compared as below. New South Wales impressively performs better than all other states, possessing a 6% higher share of total female directors than their share of total directors. Victoria, South Australia and Queensland are all roughly representative of their share of total directors against total female directors. Additionally Western Australia records the lowest percentage of their female directors of their total directors, merely 11%, and possessing 54% of companies without a female director with only 13% of total companies. More detailed statistics may be found in the table below.
State Total Directors Female Directors Percentage Female 0 Female Total Companies % of total companies % of companies no female directors
NSW 979 221 23% 19 143 48% 13%
VIC 537 112 21% 9 77 26% 12%
WA 237 27 11% 21 39 13% 54%
SA 58 10 17% 3 9 3% 33%
QLD 178 32 18% 7 29 10% 24%



Superannuation Trustees

Following years of stagnation, the BDI of superannuation trustees is showing considerable improvement. The remarkable growth over the past year, in keeping with the 5.1 per cent spurt between 2013 and 2015, suggests a positive trajectory for the composition of future boards. However, it must be considered that the 2015 and 2016 results include ERF-Retail trustees; this small sample of generally well balanced boards often have corresponding trustees in retail, perhaps skewing the results. Therefore, it is important to note that the total participation of women on superannuation trustee boards, excluding ERFs, is 28.4 per cent.

All sectors have improved since the data in 2015. Retail has increased from 33 per cent to 33.5 per cent; industry funds from 22.6 per cent to 26.1 per cent. Retail-ERF has improved from  40.5 per cent to 44.2 per cent.


Mutual Banks / Credit Unions / Building Societies

  • 26.1 per cent of directorship positions are held by women
  • 12 per cent (11) do not have a woman on their board
  • 21 per cent (19) have 40 percent or more of directorships held by women
The percentage of women on building society, credit union and mutual bank boards has increased by 3.1 per cent since 2015 to 26.1 per cent in 2016. Also markedly, directorships percentage of boards with 40 percent or more directorships held by women has increased from 13 per cent in 2015 to 21 per cent. Increasing regulation in the sector is driving changes around governance and board nominations and appointments processes which is more favourable for women.


Data on the Rugby League bodies of Australia was collected for the first time in January 2016. This report covers both the NRL and AFL clubs as well as the National Rugby League Commission and AFL Commission. Women on Boards is pleased to say the total of women on boards was higher than expected and is anticipated to increase over time. As of January 2016 there were 18 AFL clubs and 16 NRL clubs. AFL outperformed NRL with 14.7% female directors and 18.5% for AFL clubs. The AFL Commission had 25% women and the National Rugby League Commission had 12.5%.
Although the percentage of women was higher than anticipated only 3 boards had more than two female directors as well as 37.5 percent of the boards only having one woman. It is believed there should be a minimum of two women on a board as with only one they become the person who talks about female issues as well as being the “token woman”, rather than becoming fully involved with the club. Three of the 36 chairs positions were taken up by women.

University Governing Bodies

Data on the governing bodies of Universities was collected for the first time in 2016. These bodies are typically called Councils, headed by a Chancellor. The composition of Councils varies. Members are usually elected from the staff and the alumni. Some may be appointed by government.
Year Total directors Total female directors % female directors No. of entities with 40% of more
2015 628 226 36.0 13
2016 643 239 37.2 20
Generally compared to 2015 female representation has improved on University Governing Bodies. Though expansion of research to include the University of Divinity has some impact on this finding, when removed from the calculations it is found that only .1% of the 1.2% improvement is accounted for by this factor. Additionally the number entities with 40% or more female members has expanded by around 50% from 13 to 20, or 19 excluding the University of Divinity.

Cooperative Research Centres

  • 25.5 percent of directorships are held by women
  • 11.1 (4) percent  do not have a woman on their board
  • 27.7 percent (10) have 40 percent or more of directorships held by women
  • 19.4 percent have women as Chairman
Despite the promising decrease in the percentage of boards that don't have a female director, which has improved from 14.8% in 2015 to 11.1% in 2016, this level of progress has not been mirrored in other statistics. Holistically, only a quarter of directors in CRCs are women. This means a growth of 0.9% since 2015. Although these statistics are still moving in the right direction, this marginal increase is in stark contrast to the commendable percentage increase between 2014 and 2015 of 7.1%.

However, the recent election of Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister might suggest new hope for CRCs and their BDI. The Abbott government’s 2015 budget continued to slash funding of CRCs, from $147m this year to $130m in 2017. Although entirely rhetoric at this point in time, Turnbull has announced science to be ‘at the centre of our national agenda’ and appointed a new Chief Scientist, who strongly promotes the need for greater research funding and ‘blue-sky’ projects.

With greater impetus placed on the CRC programs, hopefully the centres will grow and evolve, and this progression reflected in the gender distribution of boards. Now back in the spotlight, CRCs might be encouraged to respond to the frightening stagnation of the BDI.

Health and Medical

The 2016 BDI saw the consolidation of 61 Medicare Locals into 31 PHNs as well as a general increase in female directors.
Sector % Female Directors 2016
No. of entities without a female director
Heath funds 26.4 7
Health Services 43 0
AHPRA 60.4 0
PHN 38 0
Medical Colleges 20.3 3

Primary Health Networks

In 2015 the Federal Government announced the amalgamation of the 61 Medicare Locals into 31 Primary Health Networks (PHNs). This was purportedly to reduce bureaucratisation, increase efficiency and effectiveness of medical services, and improve coordination between health services by increasing focus on primary health care and improving integration of health solutions. This policy has since been commenced and in many cases the transition completed.

Since implementation of this policy, representation of women on these boards, previously Medicare Locals now PHNs, has been negatively affected in most states and territories. Last year’s highest performer, the ACT, has fallen from 75% female representation to 33.3%, Northern Territory from 57% to 38%, Queensland from 40% to 35%, NSW* from 45% to 41%, SA from 42% to 31% and Victoria dropping from 41% to 40%. Representation remained stable in Tasmania at 44%. Representation appears to have improved in Western Australia, women holding 48% of positions on the three PHN councils compared to 32% under the Medicare Local system.

However, these councils all answer to a higher board, that of the WA Primary Health Alliance, of whose six members only one is female. Nationwide, of the 231 discoverable directors only 92 are women or 40%, down from 42% last year. This may be due to the drastic decrease in the number of total boards from 61 to 31, women apparently bearing the brunt of the position removals that this has necessitated. However also notably, representation has fallen in both territories, each of which has maintained a single local health service provider.


The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency boards registered the largest overall percentage of female boards as well as having the biggest increase since 2015 (7.3%) among all measured medical and health boards. Overall, only 2 boards had less than 50% directorships held by women as of January 2016.

State Health Services

As of January 2016 there were 53 State Health Service boards in NSW, Victoria and Queensland with an average of 43% of women, a 2% increase since 2015. NSW had 39.6% of directorships held by women, Victoria 49.7% and Queensland at 39.5%. There were no boards with 0 women.