By CHRISTINE MILNE
I haven’t always believed in quotas for women on boards. In fact, I spent most of my life believing that if women had equal opportunities in education than the inequality of female representation in parliaments and business would be overcome. I’ve now changed my mind and I’m tired of waiting. Women are being shut out of Australia’s boardrooms, not because they can’t do the job but because of a culture of exclusion. It must change.
A quick glance around shows we have a female Governor-General, with an all female staff, and a female Prime Minister. We have female sports champions, millionaires, Vice-Chancellors of universities, lawyers, bus drivers, engineers and teachers. In the Australian Greens Party Room women out number the males six to four and in my office my senior staff are predominately women. Women in Australia participate in a broad spectrum of workplaces in a variety of ways and I applaud it.
Recently, I walked into a room of business people supposedly engaged in a progressive business agenda and it was wall-to-wall men, with only two female representatives. My immediate reaction was there is no way these are progressive business people because they haven’t recognised that they have a problem and therefore are unlikely to be forward thinkers or visionaries. That is the risk for Australia in a competitive global environment unless our boardrooms change. Women bring to the table important perspectives and profitability.
The business end of town and the boardrooms of Australia’s top companies continue to be a female free zone. The Australian Institute of Company Directors found that only 15.5% of directors on ASX200 company boards are women and a total of 49 of these 200 boards do not have any women at all. This means that when you step into one out of four of Australia’s top boardrooms you will not see a woman sitting at the table.