Board diversity

Posted by on 07/04/2015

A joint study from Diversity Council Australia (DCA) and Deakin University into the cultural diversity of ASX boards finds that, although ASX boards have become more culturally diverse over the past decade, they still do not reflect the diversity levels represented in Australian society. In each of ASX 100, ASX 200 and ASX 500 listed companies, only one-quarter of directors are from culturally diverse backgrounds (non-Anglo-Celtic) compared with one-third of the wider Australian community. And while there has been a 22 per cent increase in directors with culturally diverse backgrounds since 2004 in all ASX companies, the increase of cultural diversity on ASX100 boards has only been 10 per cent.

The study shows that directors with Asian heritage is up from 5.9% in 2004 to 9.5% in 2013 (an increase of 61 per cent) in all ASX companies, suggesting board renewal deliberations recognise the need to bring in directors with experience in Asian markets. However, ASX100 boards show only a five per cent increase in Asian directors over the same period.

While cultural diversity on boards is progressing, even if slowly, CEO positions are still held predominantly by those with an Anglo-Celtic background — the study shows a minimal increase of four per cent in the number of CEOs from a culturally diverse background compared to the 22 per cent increase in directors from culturally diverse backgrounds since 2004.

The study covered the cultural background of directors sitting on ASX 100, ASX 200 and ASX 500 boards in 2004, 2009 and 2013.

Meanwhile, a review of women on FTSE 100 boards in the UK found that none of them remain all-male boards. This compares with the findings of an Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) review that found there are still three ASX100 boards with no female board members — one of these is in the ASX50.

Within the FTSE 250 in the UK in 2014, there are still 23 all-male boards, whereas there are 36 companies in the ASX200 that have no women on their boards. The progress in the UK is significant, given there were 152 all-male boards in the FTSE 350 when the review began in 2011.

The numbers of female non-executive directors on FTSE 100 boards has seen an increase to 28.5% in 2014 from 15.6% in 2011. And the numbers of female executive directors have seen an increase to 8.6% in 2014 from 5.5% in 2011.

And diversity on Australian superannuation boards has increased too. Not all board appointments in the superannuation industry are publicly announced, but of those that have been, nine out of 13 appointments have been women. A number of all-male superannuation boards appointed their first female director, but there are still six industry funds without a woman on their board.

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