Progress in increasing the number of female directors at Australia’s biggest companies has plateaued, with concerns emerging that support for gender diversity in the nation’s boardrooms could dwindle as momentum slows.
The Australian Institute of Company Directors’ quarterly gender diversity report found there were 25.4 per cent female directors across the ASX 200 by the end of August, only a 0.1 per cent increase compared to the 25.3 per cent reported at the end of 2016.
AICD chairman Elizabeth Proust said while the percentage has risen dramatically since 2009 – when it stood at just 8.3 per cent – the halt in progress is “concerning”.
“When progress stalls, or slows considerably, there is also the potential that the individual with the power to make change, in this case the chairs of ASX 200 boards, take their foot off the pedal or don’t bother engaging at all,” Ms Proust said in the report released on Tuesday.
She described the number of female appointments to ASX 200 boards as “disappointing”, and said it is difficult to get a positive response from chairs who have the power and ability to appoint female directors to their boards.
So far, 15 companies have signed up to the 30% Club’s target of women holding 30 per cent of directorships across the country’s top 200 firms by 2018.
Only 66 companies including iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group, health insurance provider Medibank Private, supermarket chain Woolworths, and broadcaster Nine Entertainment, have reached the target.
The AICD’s report showed that while the number of companies with no women on the board fell to 11, down from 13 in May and 22 a year ago, 64 boards have only one female director.
“One female director does not equal gender diversity,” Ms Proust said.
“Even if the current 11 companies with no female directors on their board appoint one female director in the next few months, this does not mean the target will be reached.
“Hopefully this report serves as a wake-up call to directors, investors and shareholders across the ASX 200.”