Government grant doubles diversity scholarship program

Wednesday, 09 July 2014


    A grant from the federal government will double the amount of places available for the next round of the Board Diversity Scholarship Program, with the first round of scholarships for women from rural and remote areas opening on Monday 14 July.

    In a bid to lift female representation in senior executive positions and on Australia’s boards, the government will match the Australian Institute of Company Directors’ contribution to the scholarship program through a $650,000 grant.

    This means that 140 scholarships will be available for women to attend one of Company Directors’ highly-regarded governance education programs.

    Recipients will also receive 12 months free membership of Company Directors and, in some instances, travel and accommodation expenses.

    “This scholarship round is the latest in a series of initiatives we have undertaken to help improve gender diversity in our boardrooms. It represents a serious commitment of resources from both the federal government and ourselves as we recognise that the business case for board diversity is very strong,” says John Colvin, CEO of Company Directors.

    We want more high-performing WOMEN in the pipeline for board positions

    “More than 3,600 women applied for the two rounds of scholarships we offered in 2010 and 2012 and some recipients have achieved great success in finding board positions. We are now adding dedicated scholarships for women in remote and rural areas to our program, as well as scholarships for women working in male-dominated sectors, as we recognise the particular difficulties both these groups may face.”

    Three types of scholarships will be offered over the next two years:

    • Rural and Remote Scholarships will provide women living in rural and remote locations with a full scholarship (including an allocation for travel costs) to undertake the Company Directors Course to develop their executive or professional director careers.
    • Board Ready Scholarships will support women seeking to transition from executive careers to board careers or professional non-executive directors to advance their board careers.
    • Sector Development Scholarships will provide women currently working in executive roles in male dominated sectors with support to undertake governance education aimed at developing their executive careers.

    Since the launch of the Board Diversity Scholarship Program in 2010, there has been an encouraging improvement in the number of women on boards.

    According to real-time statistics compiled by Company Directors, women held 18.2 per cent of positions on S&P/ASX 200 boards at 28 May 2014, compared to 8.3 per cent in 2010. Women have also made up 31 per cent of new appointments to ASX 200 boards so far in 2014.

    Females now hold 22.3 per cent of directorships on ASX 50 boards and 24.6 per cent of the directorships on ASX 20 boards.

    “More needs to be done, but I am confident the practical steps we have taken are the best way to achieve the desired outcome. We want more high-performing women in the pipeline for board positions and to be recognised, on their merits, as among the best candidates for directorships in Australia going forward,” says Colvin.

    The scholarship program is just one of several board diversity initiatives Company Directors has launched over the past four years. For example, it has established a Chairman’s Mentoring Program that is now in its third year, taken a leadership role in the development of the ASX reporting guidelines on diversity and published a detailed report on female appointments to ASX 200 boards from 2010 to 2014.

    In another development, the Victorian Government is co-sponsoring 34 scholarships for women on not-for-profit (NFP) boards to undertake the Company Directors Course. Successful applicants will also receive a year’s free membership of Company Directors.

    This third round of the Victorian Women’s Governance Scholarship program is being facilitated by a grant of more than $187,000 from the Victorian Government as well as a contribution by Company Directors itself.

    President of the Victorian Division Council of Company Directors, Bill Scales AO FAICD, observes: “These scholarships are part of our commitment to supporting directors in the NFP community, who constitute a large part of our membership.

    “More than 70 women have previously won scholarships in this program, boosting their own knowledge and skills to the ultimate benefit of the boards on which they serve. The NFP sector faces particular challenges and the winners will have the opportunity to network with peers in similar positions.”

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