Gender diversity lagging in board and executive leadership roles

Even as boards creep toward the gender balanced target of 40% women, leadership positions at Australia’s largest companies remain overwhelmingly male-dominated, data from the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) shows.

On International Women’s Day, ACSI’s analysis reveals that women make up only 9.5% of board chair roles and 6.5% of CEOs across the ASX200. The analysis also shows that women now occupy more than 36% of board seats in the ASX50 and almost 35% of seats in the ASX200. While women directors are on the boards of every ASX200 company, there remains seven ASX300 laggard companies without a woman on their boards, with three having never appointed women directors.

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.

ASX200/300 board gender diversity progress as at February 2022

  • 65 companies in the ASX200 have 40% or more women directors, with 170 boards in the ASX300 having above 30% women directors.
  • There are only 19 one-women boards in the ASX200.
  • The ASX200 in 2015 was ~18% women on boards – today it is 34.6%.
  • The ASX300 crossed the 30% barrier in November 2020. It is now at 33.1%.
  • Number of ASX200 women CEOs has climbed to 13, although one is due to retire.
  • Number of ASX200 women chairs has lifted from 11 in 2015 to 19 in 2022 (down 5 on 2021)

ACSI CEO Louise Davidson said: “More needs to be done to address the gender imbalance in leadership positions at Australia’s largest companies. While it is encouraging that the number of women on boards continues to rise, more needs to be done to boost the number of female chairs and CEOs. And we expect those boards without any women at all to remedy the imbalance.

“More board diversity improves governance standards at companies and is strongly linked to long-term shareholder value. ACSI members have pushed to increase gender diversity across the ASX, including in leadership positions.

“Recent examples of sexual harassment at some of Australia’s largest companies reinforce the importance of board and executive accountability when it comes creating a safe workplace and promoting gender equality.”

Though boards have increased gender diversity, they have not yet met the 40 percent mark with women directors across the ASX200.

“There is still much work to be done to achieve the gender-balanced targets,” Ms Davidson said. “There also remains a profound challenge to further boost female representation in board and executive leadership positions.”

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