Women in the boardroom – anything you can do, WE can do better

The sixth edition of “Women in the boardroom – a global perspective” by Deloitte’s Global Centre for Corporate Governance was published recently. The report presents findings on boardroom diversity across the world, reporting statistics from 66 countries.

Guerdon Associates takes a look at Australia.

Globally, there has been a marginal increase in female representation on boards, with 16.9% of board seats held by women in 2018 – an increase from 15% in 2016.

In Australia, there has been a steady increase in the number of women on boards. In 2018, 25.4% of boards here were made up of women – up from 20.4% in 2016. This is promising but there is more progress to be made on the issue of diversity. According to Nicola Wakefield Evans, a director on the boards of MetLife Australia, Lendlease and Macquarie Group, as well as chairwoman of the 30% Club, big organisations have recognised the value of diversity but an attitude change is required. She acknowledges that women have to work harder and be better than their male counterparts to get senior roles within organisations. Further, she mentions that true diversity would be hard to achieve if these attitudes towards women do not change. She believes that boards can set the tone at the top, by driving diversity there to begin with. This should have flow-on effects to the senior executive level and further down the hierarchy.

One way to achieve this aim is to mandate diversity with the use of quotas. This is a model used by countries such as Norway, France and Germany. Australia has not implemented a quota system. Instead, in an effort to spur momentum on the issue, the ASX Corporate Governance Council’s principles recommended that listed companies disclose board diversity policies (see HERE) . The AICD took this further in 2015 by setting a voluntary target of 30% of women to serve on all boards. ASX 200 companies were encouraged to reach this target by 2018, which they did. This achievement came without the use of quotas. The 30% Club now wants the same target for companies in the ASX 300 by 2021.

Several other initiatives have sprung from this early success. The ASX Corporate Governance Council has recommended that listed companies report the proportion of men and women across all levels i.e. board, senior executive and the whole organisation. The advocacy group Women on Boards Australia has called for a 40% target for women in all leadership roles. ACSI has threatened that pension funds will vote against nominating committee chairs of ASX300 companies with only one female director.

Another advocacy group, Chief Executive Women, provides younger female executives with opportunities to further the cause through education and the provision of scholarships for future leaders. Their work is further supplemented by Male Champions of Change – senior male members of boards and government who encourage and promote gender equity.

The full report can be found HERE .

And for the majority of you born after the boomer generation (or even before then!), the words in the article title stem from that, alas, forgotten 1950s icon of women’s lib Doris Day, singing the lyrics from the musical Annie Get Your Gun (see HERE) .

© Guerdon Associates 2024
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