Women now have more ASX100 board seats than ever – but is it the wrong goal?

One in four ASX100 board appointments during 2012 were women, according to new research from the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI), which says the figure is welcome, but slow encouragement.

Others in the industry say the same – that although board appointments are fine, there is still too much other work to be done.

And some say the work is being done in the wrong areas.

“It’s good to see women are filling positions of power,” says Yolanda Vega, chief executive of the Australian Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

“However … we’re talking about a mere 100 or 200 women. What these ASX listed companies should be looking to do is use women as external suppliers.”

The research from the ACSI shows 105 women now occupy 144 roles in the 100 largest publicly listed companies. One in four made up new board appointments in 2012, and account for 18% of board seats, which is the highest in the history of the survey.

But some of the statistics are still disheartening. Women hold 9.9% of all ASX101-200 seats, and while that is a slight improvement, more than half of those companies had no female directors during 2012.

ACSI chief executive Ann Byrne, who will step down next month, said the results were disappointing.

“While we are pleased to see the improvement in gender diversity on S&P/ASX100 boards, there is clearly still work to be done,” she said.

Vega agrees, but says the business community needs to stop focusing on board positions, which only affect a minority of women. Instead, she says, a more systemic change needs to be made.

“The Discrimination Act passed in parliament almost 30 years ago, we should not still be talking about the same issue,” she says.

“What we should be looking at is setting targets to use women as external suppliers, and have them be a part of the supply chain.

“We now have approximately 1 million women trading in Australia who are being ignored because the focus is going to 100 women sitting on boards.”


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