Board appointments: an indicator of gender equality progress? | Women's Agenda

Board appointments: an indicator of gender equality progress?

Seeing more women appointed to leadership positions is core to Women’s Agenda.

But a lack of women on boards – and a reminder, only 14% of ASX 200 directors are women — is merely a symptom of a much wider range of problems.

As Nareen Young outlines today, the workplace gender equality discussion needs to extend well beyond board diversity. It needs to consider that still significant 17.6% gender pay gap, access to meaningful flexible working arrangements and the prohibitive cost of childcare.

It even needs to consider domestic violence – which is estimated to directly cost employers more than $484 million a year.

Still, there’s good reason to celebrate when women are appointed to boards as it shows progress. It’s a point Sex Discrimination Commissioner Liz Broderick recently made to me when pressed on why she puts so much effort into the women on boards debate, when there are issues like domestic violence to contend with.

“The thing about women on boards is it’s so easy to count. It’s measurable,” she told me. “But it is an indicator of gender equality in the same way that domestic violence and the prevalence of sexual harassment and the disparity of women’s pay are indicators. Progress in any of those areas has a positive impact in the other areas.”

Issues affecting women are ultimately linked, said Liz. “The first time I ever went into a refuge a woman said to me, ‘Liz, how’s the women on boards campaign going?’ It astonished me. Why was she asking that?

“The women on boards issue speaks to women’s proximity to economic power. While we are excluded from economic power and decision making, we will be marginalised.”

Indeed, let’s continue to celebrate key leadership appointments, and push for more women on boards.

But let’s not have any measurable success distract from the need to continually address other gender equality issues.

What do you think? Have your say below. 

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