The number of female directors on boards listed on the Australian Stock Exchange’s 200 largest companies has hit a new high.
The Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) said that for the first time 30% of board directors were women.
AICD CEO Angus Armour said in a statement that 30% was “base camp” and the next step will be a push towards a 40:40:20 model in which boards are made up of 40% women, 40% men and 20% either gender with greater ethnic diversity.
Armour said companies with diverse boards perform better because their directors contribute a wider range of experience and perspectives to decision-making.
Armour said in a statement that while they reached the target later than planned, it is still “a great achievement”.
“We should celebrate the progress that has been made, which is evidence that meaningful change can be achieved through voluntary targets,” he said.
“It is clear that Australia’s largest companies see the value of board diversity; a diverse mix of views and perspectives around the table increases board performance and reduces the risk of group think.”
Car parts supplier Bapcor has the most female directors – 60/%. AICD’s research found 13 listed companies had 50% or more female directors, including health insurer nib, iron ore giant Fortescue Metals and Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
Female directors are most represented in the largest of companies. The AICD found women accounted for 35.2% of board positions in Australia’s 20 biggest public companies.
“I think with smaller companies the challenge can be greater. If you’re a start-up with three people it’s a bit of a different environment, so we’re really pleased and grateful that the top 100 have pushed on so hard,” Armour said.
The AICD called out seven ASX 200 companies with no women on their boards as at November 30, including TPG Telecom and medical imaging company Pro Medicus.
Bank of Melbourne advisory board chairman Elizabeth Proust, who was president of the AICD when the 30% target was set, said finding qualified female candidates was not the problem, given more women than men have graduated from university over the past decade.
“There’s also a more general realisation that, given the education of women, the business case for using the whole of your potential workforce is overwhelming,” Proust said.
Proust is chairman of Nestle Australia and a non-executive director of Lendlease.