Amazing achievement from Australia’s biggest publicly listed companies, but still so much work to do on diversity in business leadership.
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The exclusive S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) club made history this week.
Investor lobby group Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) revealed Thursday that Australia’s 200 largest public companies now all have at least one woman on the board.
ACSI chief Louise Davidson welcomed the milestone.
“The benefits of having more women in governance roles are well established and are being clearly recognised in boardrooms around Australia,” she said.
“More diverse boards make for better-governed companies, which is intrinsically linked to long-term shareholder value.”
ASX 200 gender diversity accelerated in 11 years
ACSI first started its campaign for better gender diversity on ASX 200 boards back in 2010. That year, only 8% of board positions were held by women.
In 2015, ACSI set a target of 30% seats to be held by female directors. At that time, there were still 34 companies in the ASX 200 that had all-male boards.
Now 126 businesses out of 200 have achieved the 30% representation goal. Fifteen companies in the ASX 200, as of this week, have boards that are majority female.
According to ACSI, this progress shows how investors, boards and others can work collaboratively to actually achieve diversity.
But Davidson reminded all there is plenty more to do.
“It’s important that we maintain the momentum for change and continue to increase both the number of women and diversity of experience on boards,” she said.
“There is more work to be done to achieve gender balance, which we define as a minimum of 40% women, 40% men and 20% unallocated to allow flexibility for board renewal. Listed companies should set a time frame within which they will achieve gender balance on their boards.”
Outside the board
Of course, the board is a very small part of large public companies.
There is still a significant lack of diversity at the executive level in ASX 200 businesses.
In October, superannuation fund HESTA launched its 40:40 Vision campaign to reform c-suite positions among Australia’s largest publicly listed employers.
HESTA chief executive Debby Blakey said at the time that, at the current anaemic rate of reform, it would take 80 years before 40% of executive leadership was female.
“We see lack of gender diversity in leadership as a financial risk. Companies that fail to consider 50% of the population for leadership positions risk missing out on the best people, and the performance of the organisation will eventually suffer.”
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Motley Fool contributor Tony Yoo has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia’s parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.