10/08/2016 - 14:02

Smith-Gander, Horton add new roles

10/08/2016 - 14:02

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It’s been a great month for Perth-based women on ASX100 companies.

Smith-Gander, Horton add new roles
Diane Smith-Gander will join the board of AGL Energy next month.

It’s been a great month for Perth-based women on ASX100 companies.

Diane Smith-Gander has announced she will leave her post as chair of contractor Broadspectrum, with the Western Australian businesswoman to take a non-executive role at AGL Energy.

Ms Smith-Gander’s departure from Broadspectrum follows an overhaul of the company’s board after its takeover by Spanish infrastructure giant Ferrovial.

Ms Smith-Gander will stand for election at AGL’s annual general meeting next month, while non-executive director Bruce Phillips will step down.

“We are delighted to announce our intention to appoint Diane as a non-executive director of AGL,” chairman Jerry Maycock said.

“She will bring extensive and diverse expertise from her board and executive career in technology, operations, large-scale commodities and major transformation projects.”

Meanwhile, an event billed for women in education earlier this month, and jointly hosted by the Perth chapter of networking group Chief Executive Women and Navitas, took on added significance when Navitas chair Harvey Collins announced to the room that the ASX had been informed of his plan to step down in favour of Tracey Horton.

The champagne was already flowing as various speakers, including investment adviser Heather Zampatti, lauded the decision to the small gathering, which included Ms Smith-Gander (who is also president of CEW).

Fellow Navitas director and former federal Department of Education and Training chief Lisa Paul pulled out the statistics, highlighting the fact that, due to her impending appointment, Ms Horton would become just the fifth female chair of an ASX100 company, and the only one based in Perth.

As any statistician will know, when a single addition to a population equates to a double-digit increase in percentage terms, the original number is clearly quite small.

Ms Horton believes that although there may be few female ASX100 chairs, they do represent notable underlying change driven by the bigger end of town.

“There has been quite a lot of positive change in recent years in terms of the number of female directors of boards, in particular larger boards, ASX100 boards,” Ms Horton said.

“When I started participating on boards, the number of women was less than 10 per cent; but now it is a little bit more like 20 per cent, so a doubling in four to five years is quite good progress.

“In terms of being chair, it is generally people who have sat on boards for a while that end up being chairman, so there is a little bit of catching up taking place in terms of the number of female directors.”

But Ms Horton acknowledges that, due to some of Perth’s idiosyncrasies, such as having a high number of smaller listed companies, the local market appears to have been less enthusiastic in embracing board diversity.

“Unfortunately we do lag the country a little bit in terms of representation on boards here,” she said.

“We have a lot of smaller boards, which have not got to thinking about the process it takes to achieving more women on their boards.”

WA has six ASX100 companies, all of which have boards composed of around 30 per cent or more female directors. The exception is South32, the state’s newest major business, which only has one South Africa-based woman among its eight directors.

The BNiQ search engine reveals there are 123 women who are directors of 721 listed entities based in WA or considered to be WA companies. Of those, the best representation is among 197 industrial companies, which have 49 female directors, compared with 524 listed resources companies, which have 74 women on their boards.

• Mark Pownall interviewed Tracey Horton with Jane Marwick on ABC720’s Drive program on August 8. To hear the interview click here or search for it on Soundcloud.

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