News and Views ASX 200 boards trail on gender diversity

Thursday, 01 April 2010


    Female directors make up at least 20 per cent of most boards in Australia, but not the boards of the top 200 companies on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), where they account for just 8.7 per cent of directors.

    That’s the finding of Women on Boards’ new Boardroom Diversity Index, released in mid-March.

    The index covers female participation on 774 boards, including ASX 200 companies, credit unions, superannuation funds regulated by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), national sporting organisations, Cooperative Research Centres, rural research and development corporations and top government boards.

    “Female participation on boards in these key sectors should never again fall below the numbers we have published,” says Claire Braund, executive director of Women on Boards.

    The index reveals that the percentage of ASX 200 companies without a female director rose marginally in 2009 to 53 per cent, while female participation on ASX 200 company boards increased slightly from 8.3 per cent in 2008 to 8.7 per cent.

    The statistics improve as one moves up the ASX, with boards of ASX 100 companies comprising 10.8 per cent women and ASX 50 companies comprising 12.9 per cent women. Eleven companies added at least one female to their board in 2009.

    In November 2009, Women on Boards called for ASX 200 companies to achieve a minimum of 25 per cent female directors by 2012 or, it said, it would advocate the introduction of mandatory quotas.

    Women on Boards has now issued a similar challenge to the other sectors included in its index to achieve minimum of 40 per cent female directors in the same time frame.

    The index also reveals that in 2010 women make up:

    • 21 per cent of APRA-regulated superannuation trustee boards;
    • 21 per cent of credit union boards, a rise from 19 per cent in 2007;
    • 26 per cent of national sporting organisation boards, up from 14 per cent in 2006/07; and
    • 17 per cent of Cooperative Research Centre boards.

    The index also shows that rural research and development corporations increased their number of female directors from 13 per cent in 2008 to 22 per cent in 2009. However, the percentage of women directors on government business boards (state and Federal) is below the Australia-wide average of 38 per cent for overall government boards and committees.


    Towards greater diversity

    In November 2009, the Australian Institute of Company Directors announced a range of new measures to improve gender diversity on Australian boards. The initiative aims to address the so-called “pipeline problem” – the current obstacles to women gaining positions in senior management ranks that could prepare them for future directorship roles.

    Our new measures include:

    • Recommendations for boards to adopt, and report on, diversity policies and goals for the board and senior management;
    • Recommendations for greater transparency in board selection processes and reporting;
    • A mentoring program bringing together 51 senior listed company chairmen and experienced directors with emerging women directors;
    • A scholarship program and other educational initiatives;
    • Enhanced database and information services for current and aspiring women directors; and
    • Additional briefings, seminars and other events tailored to the needs of aspiring women directors.

    For more information, visit our website at:

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