The ASX200 has broken through the 30 per cent barrier for women on boards, according to the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI).
ACSI CEO Louise Davidson said, “This milestone represents the culmination of years of work by ACSI and others to increase the number of women appointed to listed company boards.
“Investors have long recognised the value of board gender diversity. ACSI and our members adopted a 30 per cent target in 2015. To have corporate Australia achieve and, in many cases, now exceed this target is a good outcome.”
More than 40 ASX200 companies currently have 40 per cent women directors and 20 companies have 50 per cent or more women on their boards.
Davidson says the benefits of board diversity are well-established.
“More diverse boards make for better governed companies which is intrinsically linked to long-term shareholder value.
“Reaching this milestone is a positive step for the millions of working and retired Australians who own shares in listed companies through their superannuation savings.”
However, ACSI recognises that reaching 30 per cent women directors does not mean the job is done, with more than half the companies in the ASX200 yet to reach this target.
According to Davidson, “While we are pleased to see the 30 per cent milestone achieved, it’s important that we maintain the momentum for change. Given that boards are still comprised of 70 per cent men and 30 per cent women, gender representation on company boards is a long way from equal.”
On current figures, 70 per cent of board positions are held by men including 90 per cent of chair roles, there are still five ASX200 companies with no women directors and 46 companies with only one, and more than one-quarter of ASX200–300 companies have zero women boards.
ACSI recently released a policy proposal 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. If companies are unwilling to set a reasonable timeframe or those targets do not improve diversity by 2025, we think that regulatory intervention should occur.
ACSI will continue advocating for increased gender diversity on boards until a reasonable balance has been achieved. Until then, we will apply our voting policy to recommend our members vote against the election of directors on boards with poor gender diversity.
Last week, we wrote to the boards of ASX300 companies with poor gender diversity and are currently undertaking a series of meetings with their directors to discuss this issue.