Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has set gender quotas for appointments to government boards — meaning that board appointments in the state must be at least 50 per cent women. His announcement of the move follows the release earlier this month of Women on Boards’ 2015 Boardroom Diversity Index — the results of which were nothing short of staggering, as UN Women director Julie McKay writes for Mamamia today.
Imagine if rather than celebrating the companies that have appointed one woman to their board as a marker of progress towards gender equality, we were recognising companies for reaching gender parity.
Imagine if rather than celebrating when a company sets a 25 percent target for women in leadership, we were celebrating the companies who had committed to reaching gender parity within five years.
This month, Women on Boards released its 2015 Boardroom Diversity Index and to be honest, the results are staggering.
Despite slow progress, out of the ASX300, 81 companies still have no women on their boards. In the ASX100, there are five ‘stag’ companies.
It simply isn’t good enough. And for me, it is time that we had a conversation about how to drive change, when awareness raising and good intention simply isn’t resulting the changes necessary.
Why are women on boards important?
There is significant evidence that diverse boards are more effective and have stronger financial performance. Credit Suisse’s Gender Diversity and Corporate Performance report (2013) found that companies with more than one woman had delivered on average, higher returns, lower gearing and better average growth over the last six years.
Women on boards bring different perspectives and leadership styles, which even men who have resisted the need to have women on boards reflect positively on, once the chance has happened. While it is difficult to measure, it is also understood that being able to see women in senior leadership roles is likely to increase the retention of female staff in the organisation.
You might also like: This ad reminds us of the double standards powerful women still face
To activate effective strategy and governance, it isn’t a stretch to understand that the Board needs to reflect the customer and employee base. The buying power of women is undeniable and it doesn’t make sense to ignore such a significant market.
Finally, because of the way our society is structured and the systemic bias against women that has existed in our workplaces, women remain underutilised in the senior leadership and board ranks.
Companies who recognise this, can access a pool of deeply well qualified women – who will only drive value for the organisation.
How do we affect change?
From my perspective, at a national level, it is time to seriously consider quotas. Norway has done it and more recently, Germany has enacted legislation requiring big businesses to have women on their boards.
I don’t believe that on their own, quotas will effectively drive behavioural change, but my generation are literally going to die waiting for the progress to be made without them. Given that there does not appear to be Government will to adopt temporary special measures in Australia, I thought it would be useful to reflect on some of the potential other drivers of change.