Female directors taken by surprise: report

Most female directors didn’t ever seek their roles, according to a study by recruitment group Korn Ferry.

The survey of 57 female directors reveals only 22% actively planned for their first non-executive directorship.

Korn Ferry – examining how boards become more female-friendly – notes while women’s experiences on boards is mostly positive, diversity remains an issue.

According to the Australian Institute of Company Directors this reflects the comparatively low expectations of many women, despite the introduction of mandatory diversity reporting and disclosure by ASX in 2010.

Prior to this, women comprised 10% of ASX 200 board appointments. In 2010, 25% of appointments were women. But this dropped to 22% in 2012 and 2013.

Australian Institute of Company Directors general manager of communications and public affairs Steve Burrell told SmartCompany while ASX requirements have improved board access for women cultural impediments continue to impede female participation.

“Women have lower expectations in terms of their ability to gain director positions and as such they’re less likely to be actively planning for a directorship career,” he says.

“This reflects the reality of comparatively low numbers of women on our boards, and the minds of individuals and boards.”

A Korn Ferry spokesperson says the survey shows women bring a greater range of experiences to boards compared to men, citing a respondent who sat on 13 not-for-profit boards prior to directorship.

“A lot of men who sit on boards come through senior executive roles… the pathways that women have to directorships are different to the pathways men have, but equally legitimate.”

The spokesperson says companies and boards must ensure they take on women from a greater range of backgrounds.

“To build a diverse board, companies need to enlarge the candidate pool… this means considering diverse pathways of their directors.”

Respondents told Korn Ferry they want to see companies increase female representation at a board level by increasing the number of female senior executives, filling open board positions with women and promoting female NEDs to chair board committees.

Women also want firms to include at least two women on each shortlist for NED roles.

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