Michael Bailey Deputy editor

Michael has been a business journalist for 12 years. He has extensive experience editing magazines covering funds management, commercial property and the travel industry. In 2011 he won a Citi Excellence in Financial Journalism award for a BRW cover story on economic indicators.

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Women directors break ‘100 in the ASX 100’ barrier for first time

Published 25 September 2013 12:09, Updated 26 September 2013 08:04

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Women directors break ‘100 in the ASX 100’ barrier for first time

The faces around the boardroom table at Australia’s largest companies are slowly becoming more diverse.

There are more than 100 female directors across the Australian Securities Exchange’s top 100 companies for the first time, and more new directors were installed in 2012 than ever before, but the average age of directors is still at a record high.

ASX 100 companies are slowly heeding calls for greater diversity, found the 2012 Board Composition Study, prepared by corporate governance consultancy Ownership Matters on behalf of the Australian Council Of Superannuation Investors (ACSI), an advocacy group dominated by large industry and public sector super funds.

“The trend among S&P/ASX100 companies is to look beyond the ‘usual suspects’ and make appointments from a more diverse pool of candidates,” says ACSI chief executive Ann Byrne.

“Boards are clearly getting the message from investors that the recruitment of non-executive directors has to be a more professional and disciplined process than it once was.”

Including executive directors, there were 108 new director appointments which occurred during the 2012 study.

Of these, 73 board seats (or 68 per cent) were filled by 70 individuals who were not current Top 100 directors, including 17 women.

ACSI’s research identified 55 ‘new entrants’ into the ASX100 non-executive director pool for 2012. Analysis of the backgrounds of these new appointees reveals:

- 23 former executives

- 14 current executives (of whom half were women)

- 7 law/accounting partners

- 6 shareholder representatives

- 3 former politicans

- 2 former public servants

Glass ceiling slowly cracking

In 2012, women finally broke the “100 in the 100” barrier - there are now 105 women, occupying 144 roles, on the boards of ASX100 companies.

One in four of all new directors appointed in 2012 were also female, with the result that women now hold just over 18 per cent of all ASX 100 board seats - the highest level since ACSI began this eleven years ago.

But there is still a long way to go, with the next challenge being greater diversity in the next tier of companies, between the 101st largest and 200th largest listed on the ASX. The boards of these ‘mid caps’ are made up of only 9.9 per cent women, with more than half having no female directors at all in 2012.

Boys club getting greyer

For the seventh consecutive year, the average age of ASX100 non-executive directors increased, in 2012 from 61 to 62.9, the highest recorded in the 12 years of ACSI’s study.

Female directors remain considerably younger than male directors, with the average female ASX100 non-executive director at 57.6 years old, nearly seven years younger than the average male. In the ASX 101-200 cohort the average female non-executive director was 55.7 years old, compared to 64.4 for the average male.

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