Female board hires dominate for first time

women employeesMore women than men are being appointed to the boards of Australia’s top 200 companies for the first time on record.

Of 56 board appointments in the first quarter of this year, 52 per cent were women, according to new figures by the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD).

That compares to 33 per cent in the prior corresponding period and 44 per cent over the first three months of 2016. AICD chairman Elizabeth Proust on Friday welcomed the figures but warned companies should not become complacent.

“When it comes to increasing gender diversity on Australia’s largest boards, we know that it’s never been a supply problem, it’s been a demand problem,” Proust said. “What today’s figures hopefully show is that, finally, we are seeing the demand.”

The AICD had already said the percentage of female board appointments spiked at the start of the year but urged further momentum would be crucial in order to reach the 30 per cent target of female representation on ASX200 boards by the end of the year.

Proust on Friday said research has shown that a single woman on a board would not offer the full benefits of diversity. Rather three women, or 30 per cent of directors, for most boards is “where the magic happens”, she said, and today’s figures were not a signal to relax efforts.

“Greater gender diversity on our boards is crucial to the future of good governance in this country,” she said.

Director at AGL Energy and Wesfarmers Diane Smith-Gander said even as a senior and experienced board member, there are still moments when she feels excluded in the boardroom because there aren’t enough women.

“Obviously I want diversity but I never want to feel that I am a token or an under-represented minority in the boardroom,” said Smith-Gander, who was previously president of advocacy group Chief Executive Women. “As more women come into the boardroom there have been more opportunities for us to speak as groups of women.”

She said while it will be tough for the smaller listed companies to mirror the expectations of the ASX200, the figures released on Friday would result in a “cultural change”.

“Certainly this is going to show women that they can aspire to these positions and chairman, and male directors that this is becoming the norm,” Smith-Gander said. “This is not just strident feminist nonsense, this is the reality of making sure that all directors can contribute to their fullest.”

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