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More gender diversity on boards essential

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It’s the centenary anniversary of International Women’s Day and while we can celebrate many great leaps in equality for women, there still remains a large gap in the workplace. And the risk of sidelining the critical issue is increasing, says Women on Boards, the national program to improve gender balance in Australian boardrooms.

According to their research, Women on Boards report that women occupy fewer than 25 per cent of board roles in all sectors, except government, and that progress has stagnated.

On International Women’s Day, Women on Boards took the opportunity to launch its second annual Boardroom Diversity Index, which tracks key sectors on gender diversity in workplaces. Following the results, Claire Braund, co-founder of Women on Boards, warns that it is easy to get excited by media hype surrounding the ASX boards, but that this is not truly representative of the issue as a whole.

“While ASX200 boards have increased directorship positions held by women by more than two per cent in the past year, there is little or no movement in any other of the key sectors in our economy,” says Braund. “The second Boardroom Diversity Index shows that some sectors, such as Credit Unions and Building Societies, have gone backwards in terms of the numbers of women and there has been little improvement in their processes around selection.

“A lot of people and organisations have suddenly found religion on the ‘women on boards’ issue, but the reality is that we are still fiddling at the margins when it comes to significantly addressing the percentage of women on boards and committees.”

Braund believes government intervention could kick start the issue into gear. She calls in governments at local, state and federal level to introduce mandatory gender quotas on publicly-funded boards and committees.

“Where public money is involved there is a clear case for boards to be more gender and skills diverse. This not only improves governance and performance, but increases Australia’s standing in the international community, where it is clearly not well regarded in this area,” she says.

“We are all praising ASX200 companies, but they need to double the rate of appointment of women this year to achieve our target of 25 per cent by 2012.”

Braund encourages businesses looking to employ experienced and qualified women to seek out the help and advice of Women on Boards. Currently the organisation has the CVs of 2500 female executives and qualified women from its 10,500-strong subscription base.

Published on: Wednesday, March 09, 2011

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