The Sydney Morning Herald

More women join boards but glass ceiling remains intact

Author: Adele Ferguson
Date: 08/03/2012
Words: 515
Source: SMH
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Business
Page: 3
AS WOMEN celebrate International Women's Day, the latest figures on boardroom gender diversity shows that Australian-listed companies have broken a record but are still behind their international counterparts when it comes to female representation on boards.

The latest figures from the Australian Institute of Company Directors show that women now make up 13.8 per cent of directors on ASX 200 boards. This is up from 11.2 per cent last year and under 10 per cent in 2010. In real terms this is an additional 68 women who have been appointed to ASX 200 boards in the past year, or one in three new appointments. Ten new women joined the boardrooms of Australia in 2009.

Despite contributing to nearly 50 per cent of the workforce, Australian women represent only one-third of directors in the not-for-profit sector and one-third of Australia's top 200 companies have no female directors, as at June 2011.

The figures show that the biggest listed companies are making the most effort, with 20 per cent of women now on top 20 boards, 18.7 per cent on the top 50 boards, 17.3 per cent on the ASX 100 and 12.8 per cent on the ASX 200.

The figures show that one-third of new directors are female, which is a massive increase on the 5 per cent that joined boards in 2009. The increase in representation is the biggest indicator yet that the Australian Securities Exchange's decision in late 2009 to introduce diversity requirements for listed companies is starting to gain traction.

The ASX called on listed entities to disclose in their annual report their achievement against gender objectives set by their board and the proportion of women on the board and in other positions.

This naming and shaming is having a positive impact but the percentage of women on boards is still relatively low compared with Britain, Norway and the US. The European Union last week suggested introducing quotas on the basis that at the current rate of change it would take more than 40 years for women to hold 40 per cent of board positions in Europe's listed companies. In Britain, companies are working towards a voluntary target, introduced by Lord Mervyn Davies last year, to increase the percentage of women on FTSE 100 boards to 25 per cent by 2015, up from 12.5 per cent last year.

Female board representation in Britain is 15 per cent and 40 per cent in Norway, where quotas are in place. The figures come as the ANZ Bank announced a new partnership with Chief Executive Women to help push Australian women on to leadership positions and to fund research on the enablers and inhibitors to the promotion of women in the workforce. The ANZ chief executive officer, Mike Smith, said the bank's goal was to have at least 40 per cent of management roles filled by women in the coming year. "ANZ has employees in 32 countries around the world, so for us, diversity is a significant competitive advantage in connecting with our customers, building relationships, innovating and managing our business," he said.

"We are committed to making greater progress in bringing our female talent into leadership roles - our goal is to have at least 40 per cent of management roles filled by women in the coming year."

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