Board diversity solutions need to go further

Australian Human Rights Commission
13 August, 2009
Media contact: Brinsley Marlay

Although the Diversity on Boards of Directors report, released today, is useful in furthering discussion about the lack of female representation in leadership in the private sector, Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, said she is concerned a number of the suggestions in the report have already been tried, and have failed to deliver a better gender mix on Boards.

“If we are to expect better results, then we must move on from those strategies that are not working and try others - because, as long as women remain under-represented at the most senior levels of the private sector, women all across Australia continue to be marginalised," Commissioner Broderick said.

The report encourages companies to make their appointment processes more structured and open, to keep the composition of boards under review, and to develop processes for evaluating skills and the performance of directors.

Ms Broderick said it was time for approaches that will guarantee progress towards gender equality in the marketplace, including consideration of voluntary targets, quotas, compacts between government and business with financial incentives, and gender equality standards for companies doing government work.

"If we are to create sustainable high performance organisations that deliver, not just for business, but also the national economy, we cannot afford to waste the talents of over half our citizens,” said the Commissioner.

“I cannot say this often enough - there is a serious leakage of female talent in this country and, without frank discussion and significant intervention - by government and by business - the number of women progressing in the workplace will shrink even further,” the Commissioner said.

The Diversity on Boards of Directors report noted the decline in the number of female directors of ASX top 200 companies from 8.7 percent in 2006 to 8.3 percent in 2008, and senior line management roles held by women from 7.4 percent in 2006 to only 5.9 percent today.

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