Board gender diversity – balance is shifting, but is the power?

Board gender diversity – balance is shifting, but is the power?

Australia’s largest companies are closing in on a gender-balanced board target of 40% women, according to analysis by the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI).

ACSI’s work, released on International Women’s Day, shows that women now occupy more than 35% of board seats in the ASX50, and more than one-third of seats in the ASX200.

Yet their representation in chair and chief executive roles at companies is still only a small proportion. The number of ASX200 women who are CEOs has been around 10 since 2015.

Over that time, the number of women board chairs has risen from 11 to 24, but that still only represents one out of every eight companies.

In 2019, ACSI released a policy calling for listed companies to set a timeframe for achieving gender balanced boards, which it says can be met with a 40:40:20 mix that allows flexibility for appropriate renewal. Investors want companies to disclose their plans to move to gender balanced boards.

ASX200/300 board gender diversity progress

  • Only one ASX200 company still has no women directors – Silver Lake Resources.
  • 54 companies in the ASX200 have 40% or more women directors, with 124 boards in the ASX300 having above 30% women directors.
  • There are only 22 one-women boards in the ASX200.
  • The ASX200 in 2015 was ~18% women on boards – today it is 33.4%.
  • The ASX300 crossed the 30% barrier in November 2020. It is now at 31.2%.
  • Number of ASX200 women CEOs has remained stuck at 10.
  • Number of ASX200 women chairs has lifted from 11 in 2015 to 24 in 2021.

ACSI CEO Louise Davidson said: “It is very encouraging to see the number of women directors continuing to increase. But it is disappointing that the number of female chairs and CEOs continues to languish.“

“The benefits of having more women in governance roles are well-established. More diverse boards make for better governed companies which is intrinsically linked to long-term shareholder value.

“Investors have long recognised the value of board gender diversity. ACSI and our members adopted a target of 30 per cent women directors in 2015, in 2019 this target was achieved. ACSI members have voted their shareholdings with great effect to reduce the number of zero-women boards and increase gender diversity across the ASX.”

“In 2021, it is no longer acceptable to have zero women on the board of a large Australian company. For laggards, the time for excuses is well and truly over.”

The latest data shows the ASX200 boards have improved gender diversity but has yet to meet the 40 percent mark with women directors across the ASX200 sitting at 33.4%.

“ACSI recognises that reaching 30 per cent women directors does not mean the job is done, with 80 companies in the ASX200 yet to reach this target.

“While we are pleased to see boards improving, it’s important that we maintain the momentum for change. Given that boards are still comprised of almost 70 per cent men, gender representation on company boards is certainly not yet equal.”

Media contact: Nathan Robertson (0423 874 662)

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