Australia ahead in gender diversity

Australia's commitment to making gender diversity on boards a serious business imperative and without government intervention has made it a standout from other countries. And financial services led the way.

Women accounted for 32.4% of superannuation fund board seats at the end of June 2018, a 9.2% increase in the last four years.

Comparatively, women represented 29.7% of directors on ASX200 boards. And this headcount doubled to more than 96 in the three years to 31 December 2018.

The latter is just shy of the 30% target set by Australia's 30% Club in May 2015. Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) board diversity manager Rhian Richardson says it's "an amazing achievement."

"Although it's not 30%, it's almost 30% and we are confident the target will be achieved in the next month," she says.

It would be a significant milestone ahead of International Women's Day on March 8, and Richardson says the 30% Club will announce new targets and strategies.

Richardson adds the club is excited about the progress and that efforts made by groups and individuals have paid off.

"[Australia] is the first country to achieve significant targets without regulatory intervention and we are excited about that," she says.

It's been proven that gender diversity can be reached without quotas and intervention as long as there are committed individuals supporting it, and chairs and directors believing in it, she adds.

In terms of which industries are gaining the most ground, it's a mixed bag.

Richardson says financial services tend to do well in terms of the big banks and super funds taking the lead on gender diversity initiatives.

There are reports which say the mining industry lacks in this area, but companies like Fortescue are a standout in the diversity space, she notes.

Despite US firms publicly declaring a commitment to gender diversity in the last four years, research by McKinsey & Company found this has not translated into meaningful progress in 2018.

This is because firms are failing to treat gender diversity as a business priority by way of setting targets and holding leaders accountable for results.

This is an abstract of a story first published in the latest print issue of Financial Standard. You can view the full article on our free iPad app.

Read more: 30% ClubRhian RichardsonAICD - Australian Institute of Company DirectorsInternational Women's DayFinancial StandardFortescueMcKinseysuperannuationinvestmentASX
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