More women on boards but target distant

Prashant Mehra
(Australian Associated Press)

A target of 30 per cent female representation on company boards in Australia by the end of 2018 could be slipping out of reach.

The proportion of female board members across ASX 200 companies hit 26 per cent at the end of November, according to the latest quarterly gender diversity report from the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD).

This is a record high, but there has been a drop in female appointments over 2017, with 35 per cent of monthly appointments being women in 2017, down from 44 per cent in 2016.

This could make it difficult for corporate Australia to reach the AICD’s target of women making up at least 30 per cent of board members by the end of 2018, said AICD Chairman Elizabeth Proust.

The problem is an issue of demand, not supply, she said.

“It is clear that the senior ranks of many of our corporate sector organisations don’t reflect our community – nor the widespread talent within it,” Ms Proust said.

“The business case for gender diversity on boards and in senior leadership is overwhelming. Diverse boards lead to better outcomes for shareholders and stakeholders alike.”

The number of companies that have reached or exceeded the 30 per cent gender diversity target has doubled in two years, from 35 in September 2015 to 70 at the end of November 2017, the AICD said.

There are eight ASX 200 companies that have no women on their board, down from 16 a year ago.

These include Ardent Leisure, Flight Centre, TPG Telecom and Beach Energy.

Another 67 companies have only one woman on their board, the report showed.

“The AICD will continue to advocate strongly for greater diversity on our boards because diversity is vital to the future of good governance in this country,” Ms Proust said.