18/11/2020 - 06:30

Signs more women in directorship roles

18/11/2020 - 06:30

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While there are more women on the boards of Australia’s 200 largest listed companies than there were at this time last year, there remains substantial room for improvement.

About a third of all companies in the ASX200 feature boards with 30 per cent female representation. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

While there are more women on the boards of Australia’s 200 largest listed companies than there were at this time last year, there remains substantial room for improvement.

The Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) says the proportion of women on ASX 200 boards has increased by two percentage points in the year to October, to 32.1 per cent, according to its latest diversity report.

Ten more companies had reached the 30 per cent target, as set by the AICD, bringing the total to 113 companies.

Seventy-six of the remaining 87 ASX 200 companies are just one female director away from reaching the 30 per cent target, according to the report.

AICD managing director Angus Armour said it was a pleasing result.

“I am ‘glass half full’ on this outcome,” Mr Armour told Business News.

“At the start of the year, given the appointment rates, we were worried we’d go backwards this year or at least not move forward.

“Coming up 2 per cent is a pleasing outcome in the environment and there are such a large number [of companies] who are only one step away from hitting the mark.”

Silver Lake Resources and Perseus Mining were the only ASX 200 companies with no women on their boards, as at October 31.

The report does note, though, that Perseus has begun a search for two female directors.

Mr Armour said AICD would reach out to companies both in and outside of the 30 per cent target to help increase diversity on their boards.

“No one ever says, ‘No, I don’t want to talk to you about that’,” he said.

“Sometimes we talk about practical challenges, given the size of their [the company’s] board or the industry they’re in, and the steps they can take to overcome those challenges.

“That conversation will get harder as we go into the ASX 300 and beyond that, [where there are] smaller companies and, in many cases, smaller boards and more unique industries.

“If we can start with some leading companies, the largest companies, and demonstrate that it can be done and that there’s good reasons for doing it, we’ll start to influence people below that.”

The ASX 300 made steady progress over the past year, climbing about 2 percentage points to record 29.6 per cent female directorship.

Mr Armour said having more diverse perspectives across boards could lead to more robust strategies and planning for a post-COVID-19 environment.

He said that, while AICD gives no forecast on future board diversity updates, the organisation was quietly confident of a good increase in female directorship based on current employment and retirement rates.

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