Australian Women on Boards: 'Conservative governments are bad for women'

(L-R) Steve Sargent, CEO and President GE Mining, David Thodey, CEO Telstra, Robert Milliner, Senior Advisor UBS, Richard Goyder, CEO and Managing Director Wesfarmers, Andrew Mackenzie, CEO BHP Billiton, Mike Smith, CEO ANZ and Michael Andrew, Former Global Chair KPMG speak discussing the B20 policy agenda ahead of the G20 Leaders Summit in November 2014 at Brisbane. Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Superannuation, sport, the ASX100 and research centres are the only areas where gains of more than 5% in the number of women on boards have been made since 2013.

According to the 2015 Boardroom Diversity Index, there are some encouraging trends but the Federal, Queensland and Western Australian governments haven’t heard the call for more female directors.

“It is clear to us that the message is starting to hit home in a number of important areas in the economy – in particular superannuation and ASX companies – but unfortunately not with some governments,” says Claire Braund, a director of the group, Women on Boards.

“It’s hard not to conclude that conservative-leaning governments are bad for women.”

Queensland posted the biggest loss of 13.6% fewer women serving on the boards of state-owned corporations, followed by Western Australia with a drop of 3.2% and Rural Research and Development Corporations which fell 2%.

The 91 significant federal government boards only posted a loss of 0.6% women board members. However, the 2014 Australian Government Gender Balance on Boards Report showed the number of female board members down by 2% across 387 government boards.

“This is a worrying trend that, if it continues, could easily move to 5% or 10% and erode the excellent work done by the previous Federal Government to move women into board roles via its Boardlinks program,” Braund says.

The research reveals gender balance on governing bodies of universities, national sporting organisations, affordable housing companies, Medicare Locals, state health services (NSW, Victoria and Queensland) and state-owned corporations in NSW, Victoria and South Australia is above 30%.

However, listed companies beyond the ASX100 have a way to go. There are 81 companies in the ASX300 without a woman on the board.

And five companies in the ASX100 — TPG Telecom, Ramsay Healthcare, Qube Holdings, Sirtex Medical and Domino’s Pizza Enterprises –- don’t have women on their boards.

“These companies are bucking the trend when it comes to other ASX100 companies who have steadily increased the number of women on boards to be in reach of a 25% target by 2016,” Braund says.

“While this is clearly a long way short of the desired 40%, it is moderate progress that we trust will continue.”

Ms Braund said Women on Boards has been focused on the superannuation sector over the past year.

Of the 135 Superannuation Trusts measured for this year’s index, 254 of the 955 trustees were female (26.6%), a rise of 5.7% on the 2013 index.

Here’s the full index:

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