Throughout 2018, 94 ASX200 board positions were filled by women. The new recruits helped put the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) within a whisker of achieving the gender diversity goal it set for Australian companies back in 2015.

According to figures released today, women accounted for 29.7 per cent of all ASX200 board positions as at December 31, 2018.

That’s an increase of more than 10 percentage points since 2015 when the AICD called for ASX200 companies to achieve 30 per cent women on boards by the end of 2018.

In March 2018 that figure was 26.7 per cent and back in 2009, when the AICD began tracking gender diversity of boards, only 8 per cent of the directors around the table of the ASX 200 were women.

Last year 45 per cent of all appointments to ASX200 boards were women, for half of those women (47) it was their first ASX200 appointment.

As of December 31, there were just four ASX200 companies with no women on their boards: AMP Limited, ARB Corporation Limited, Emeco Holdings Limited and TPG Telecom Limited.

The gains have been achieved without legislation, but through lobbying and shareholder pressure which nudged businesses towards adopting the voluntary target. For example the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors advised boards it would start voting against all re-nominating directors for election if their boards did not have a clear path to at least 30 per cent of the seats around the table being held by women.

“There is no doubt that corporate Australia has heard the message about the value of gender diversity in boardrooms,” said Angus Amour AICD MD and CEO.

“Diverse boards help prevent group-think, leading to better outcomes for shareholders, consumers, employees and the community. They promote greater innovation and improved bottom lines.”

“Of course 30 per cent remains the floor and not the ceiling for gender diversity. We intend to continue advocating for gender parity on Australian boards.

Carol Schwartz, who currently serves as director of the Reserve Bank of Australia and Stockland, as well as chair of the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia, welcomed the progress.

“The AICD under Elizabeth Proust’s formidable leadership, made it clear that gender diversity is absolutely crucial to achieve optimum results as a corporate sector. 29.7 per cent women on boards is a strong move in the right direction and it’s great to hear the CEO say that this is the ‘floor’ and that we really need to be focusing on greater parity around our boardroom tables,” Schwartz said.

“Continued pressure from organisations like AICD and shareholder activism will hopefully keep moving the dial in the right direction.”

Looking to the wider issues of diversity and inclusion beyond gender, former race discrimination commissioner Tim Soutphommasane has argued similar lobbying efforts are needed to lift the level of cultural diversity across Australia’s predominantly white boards. Speaking at a panel event last year Soutphommasane went a step further, calling for legislation, rather than voluntary targets.

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