Friday, March 8, 2013
Blokes still rule boardrooms, major super fund warns
By business editor Peter Ryan
A report out today shows the majority of Australia's listed companies now have policies to get more women into top corporate roles, but so far they have only managed to generate one woman for every six men in the country's top 200 boardrooms.
Accounting firm KPMG analysed 600 companies and found that almost all have a gender diversity policy in place or plan to introduce one.
ASX corporate governance guidelines on diversity are not mandatory, and the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) says the situation remains unacceptable.
As the world marks International Women's Day, the council is warning that quotas might be needed to get more balance in boardrooms.
ACSI president Gerard Noonan told AM that corporate Australia's commitment to diversity is disappointing given moves in Europe for 40 per cent female representation at the board level.
"Over the past year there has been some improvement, but it's pretty disappointing as an outcome because the top 200 companies in Australia, just over 15 per cent are women so that's up from 14 per cent last year," Mr Noonan said.
"At the same time at least two-thirds have less than two women on their boards and none has a majority. Even, oddly enough, in the health sector, where you've got an overwhelming majority of women working, it's still under 10 per cent."
The criticisms come as the ASX Group chose International Women's Day to release its diversity report which shows 196, or 99 per cent, of ASX 200 companies have adopted a diversity policy or explained why one is not in place.
However, Gerard Noonan says having a policy in the system or on a shelf is not good enough, and does not mean more women are getting into boardrooms.
"Look, it's a good thing to have a policy of that sort and we applaud that but in 2010 ASCI announced a benchmark of all companies in the ASX 200, that's the 200 biggest companies, having at least two women on their boards by 2014," he said.
"But at this rate, it's a very, very slow change. It'll be another decade before we get there let alone 2014."
ACSI's audit shows that an additional 24 women were appointed over the past year, meaning the target to have at two women on every ASX 200 board by 2014 will not be met.
"Men hold over 1,000 more board positions than women. In Australia there's about 1,250 men in the top 200 companies compared with about 230 women. So we've got a long way to go," Mr Noonan said.
ACSI has pointed to a report by European bank Credit Suisse showing the greater diversity resulted in higher average returns on equity, lower debt and better average growth over the course of the last six years.
AUDIO: Blokes still rule boardrooms, super fund warn
Mr Noonan warns that unless companies put diversity policies into action, it could call for regulatory intervention to mandate quotas.
"We say that if companies can't adapt to meet that 2014 benchmark without good reason - and it's a pretty modest benchmark - we may need to consider recommending that our members vote against re-election of incumbent boards if it comes to that," he cautioned.
"It'll be very difficult for us as a shareholder organisation not to consider calling at least for some regulatory intervention to see whether that can improve."
Topics: business-economics-and-finance, corporate-governance, management, women, australia
First posted 10 hours 5 minutes ago