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Diversity stalls as decade of data reveals slow pace of change

Now in its tenth year, the Board Diversity Index has shown that while some significant strides have been made, organisations must do more to improve broader diversity in boardrooms.

The release of the 2024 Board Diversity Index report by Governance Institute of Australia in partnership with Watermark Search International has continued to raise concerns about stagnating diversity on Australian boards with little or no change to the gender and cultural make-up of the top ASX 300 listed companies.

The comprehensive analysis, now in its tenth year, stands as a testament to the ongoing commitment of both organisations towards fostering better governance practices.

According to the report, there have been significant strides towards achieving gender diversity targets, with 41 per cent of ASX 300 boards successfully attaining the 40:40:20 gender balance. However, it’s concerning to note that 13 ASX 300 boards still lack female representation entirely.

The index also shed light on the lack of LGBTQI+ and disability representation, with only four openly identifying LGBTQI+ directors and an absence of data regarding directors with disabilities. Ethnic diversity remains another area of concern, with just nine per cent of directors coming from non-Anglo-Celtic backgrounds. There are still just four First Nations directors in the ASX 300, holding a total of seven seats.

The launch event, hosted by Paul Nicolaou from Business Sydney, provided a forum for considered discussions on the importance of diverse voices in boardroom decision-making. Speakers including David Evans from Watermark Search International, Kristy Edser from MinterEllison, and Pauline Vamos, Chair of Governance Institute of Australia, emphasised the strategic necessity of diversity for sustained growth, enhanced competitiveness, and good governance.

Ms Vamos highlighted the urgency of breaking free from inertia, innovating approaches to talent sourcing, and redefining criteria for leadership excellence in today’s dynamic environment. A panel discussion featured insights from notable community figures including Cr. Linda Scott, President of Australian Local Government Association and Chair of Care Super, Adam Davids of CareerTrackers and Mark Baxter, Australian LGBTQ+ Board & Executive Inclusion (ALBEI).

The index serves as a vital tool in identifying areas for improvement, driving positive change and promoting diversity beyond gender, encompassing cultural, LGBTQI+, and disability inclusion.

Diverse leadership isn’t just an ethical imperative; it’s fundamental for organisational success. It’s about ensuring all voices are heard, contributing to innovation, and ultimately, fostering sustained growth and competitiveness.

You can view the 2024 Board Diversity Index report on the Governance Institute website.

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