BY Fraser Tennant
Women account for only 15.8 percent of board roles in ASX 201-500 companies, according to a new report – the first of its kind examining the state of gender diversity within small-cap companies – by the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) and Heidrick & Struggles.
The ‘Beyond 200: A Study of Gender Diversity in ASX 201-500 companies’ report also reveals that there are signs that boards of newer companies and those chaired by individuals who also chair larger listed boards are leading the way towards greater gender diversity.
The report’s key findings include: (i) female representation on boards greatly declines beyond the ASX 200, falling from 27.9 percent across the ASX 200 to 15.8 percent across ASX 201-500 companies; (ii) newer companies are more likely to have greater gender diversity, with women accounting for 25.3 percent of directorships for companies listed in the last five years; and (iii) female representation rises to 22.9 percent on ASX 201-500 boards chaired by an ASX200 chair.
“This report indicates that there are larger obstacles to achieving greater gender diversity among companies outside the ASX200, given small board sizes and greater presence of founders and investors,” said Elizabeth Proust, chairman of the AICD. “However, it also shows chairs of larger companies are exerting their influence and newer companies have heard the message about the importance of diversity.”
In 2015, the AICD set a target for all boards to achieve gender diversity based on a strong body of evidence showing that diverse boards lead to better outcomes for shareholders and stakeholders alike. Further research showed that 30 percent is where ‘critical mass’ is reached in a group setting and the full benefits of diversity are realised.
The report also states that while the AICD has been tracking progress towards the 30 percent gender diversity target as far as ASX 200 boards are concerned for several years, it felt it was now time to “shine the spotlight” on small-cap companies.
Ms Proust concluded: “Greater gender diversity on boards of all sizes is fundamental to the future of good governance in this country. Continued advocacy, engagement and education is needed to see all boards reap the benefits of diversity.”