Board Gender and Diversity

In January 2012, Clare Braund, a Churchill Fellow, published a report reflecting her recent research on gender quotas in public listed company boards in Norway and the progress of the public policy debate in the United Kingdom and France. Her research findings included the following:

  • Boardroom quotas get women on boards, improve governance and change thinking.  They do not, however, move women into the executive pipeline.
  • Europe is moving towards quotation law at individual country and EU levels.
  • The UK is following Australia in using its Corporate Governance Code to push companies to set gender targets and report performance.
  • Most companies in the countries studied (Norway, France and the UK) are playing around the edges of reform workforce practices and approaches to retaining and recruiting women into roles in management and above.
  • The research highlights other demographic outcomes and reports on the author’s findings arising from interviewing 60 influential individuals and active engagement in a 2010 Global Women’s Forum attended by more than 1,000 delegates.

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In March, Governance Metrics International GMI based in New York produced their 2012 Women on Boards survey results.  Their research is highly comprehensive, covering Australasia, industrialised Asia, industrialised Europe, Nordic countries, North America, South America, emerging Asia, emerging Europe, as well as the Middle East and Africa.

Their global research reveals that the aggregate percentage of women on boards in the last two years has risen from 9.3% to 10.5% and the proportion of companies with at least one female director has risen from 56.1% to 60.2%, with the percentage of companies with at least three female directors increasing from 8.3% to 9.8%.  The greatest improvement in female representation was in industrialised markets.

Their research reveals that Australia is second only to France in the pace at which it is adding women to its boards.  GMI report that part of the impetus for change in Australia may be an ASX disclosure requirement where companies are now required to report on their overall diversity policies, as well as on specific objectives for improving gender diversity.

Their research reveals that female directors constitute less than 14% of all directors in Australia, which compares unfavourably to Norway where the figure exceeds 36%, though compares favourably to Germany (12.9%), the United States (12.6%), Japan (1.1%), Brazil (4.5%), India (5.2%) and China (8.5%).

In the report’s Executive Summary it indicates that current levels of female board representation should be seen in the context of each country’s unique history, culture and governance structure which has a direct impact on board diversity in many ways.

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