Are conservative-leaning governments just bad for women? It seems so | Women's Agenda

Are conservative-leaning governments just bad for women? It seems so

The number of entities with zero female directors significantly increases outside of the largest 100 companies listed on the stock exchange, with 81 organisations in the ASX 300 currently lacking a single women on their boards.

That’s according to the Women on Boards’ 2015 Boardroom Diversity Index, a scorecard of how Australian organisations are tracking on female board representation. It found there are just two companies on the ASX 50 with no female board members, four in the ASX 100, 38 in the ASX 200 and 81 in the ASX 300.

Meanwhile, a number of government board segments have gone backwards in the percentage of women on their boards, including Federal boards (down 0.8%), WA state-owned corporations (down 3.2%) and QLD stated owned corporations (down a massive 13.6%).

“Federally, they have taken their foot off the pedal,” said Women On Boards director Claire Braund, who noted a 0.8% drop in the number of women on Federal boards is significant when you consider the previous Labor government’s successful Boardlinks program (which included a 40% female target). “It’s a sad news story for the government, again. Unfortunately we have to say this … It’s not hard to conclude that conservative leaning governments might just be bad for women.”

However Women on Boards chair Ruth Medd said the results of the 2015 Index — which covered a broad range of 1422 corporate, government, NFP, sporting and research boards — overall are fairly positive, although some spots need an “injection of female enthusiasm”.

The Index found superannuation boards, sport boards, cooperative research centres, NSW government business enterprises, and the ASX 100 are the ‘good guys’ when it comes to women on boards, that is, the  sectors that have seen a 5% increases

Braund noted the mix of organisations covered is important to demonstrate that there’s, “life beyond the ASX 100″, the segment that is typically scrutinised by the public. The superannuation sector is equally if not more strategic than the ASX,” she said (superannuation trustees have seen a 5.7% increase in women on boards).

“And the argument that you can’t find suitable women in you can’t find them at the top end, but you can’t find them at the ASX 300 plus. I find that an interesting conversation.”

She noted the “low hanging fruit” has already been picked on the ASX 100 — something demonstrated in the slowing rate of female appointments. She said sustained change could be challenging, given it’s not up to more men to make way for women.

Some of our largest listed organisations on the ASX without a single female director include Ramsay Healthcare, TPG Telecoms and Dominoes Pizza.

“The ASX 300 is the space we think should be starting to move towards that 30 to 40% of women mark. We’re not talking a huge amount of women appointments, we’re talking a few hundred. It is possible,” said Braund.

Braund said Women on Boards will publish the names of all chairs on its ‘laggards’ list, and will continue to address board director criteria that sees boards look for identical experiences and skillsets to what they already have.

First launched in 2010, Women on Boards’ diversity Index provides a comprehensive public dataset measuring the participation of women on Australian boards.

This year’s data was collected between December 2014 and January 2015 from publicly available sources.

Anne Richards, head of the $616 billion investment portfolio Aberdeen Asset Management, officially launched the Index this morning in Sydney.

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