Monday, September 26, 2011

Do We Need a Quota to Get More Women onto Executive Boards?

As you may know in 2010 it was announced that, by April 2011, all ASX200 listed companies would have to meet a quota for the number of women on their Boards. To keep track of the companies that are meeting this 'criteria' the ASX intends to make public those companies that exceed the quota and those who fall short.

The question is: do we need a strategy like this to push gender parity or not?

At the Diversity Council Australia's annual diversity debate last week, Danny Gilbert (a solicitor with Gilbert + Tobin), asked this exact question. His view: organisational and cultural change is what is required to address the current imbalance, not a mandated measure.

Carol Schwartz, founder of the Women's Leadership Institute in Australia, was of the view that "tokenistic board members was nothing new. 'Hopefully a few mediocre women will slip in there - just so we can even out all the mediocre men' she quipped." (Financial Review, 23 September 2011).

Here are the stats:

- Women represent only 13% of Board appointments (Ernst & Young report, Women in Leadership: What Will it Take to Get Australia on Target?, September 2011)

- In ASX200 listed companies women comprise only 2.5% of chairs and 3% of chief executives

- Sex Discrimination Commissioner Liz Broderick has a target of 40% female board representation by 2015

What do you think?

Q1 Is a mandated quota the only option? And if so will it work?

Q2 If it's up to the organisations to make changes, to encourage women to get ahead and take those executive positions, what changes do organisations need to make to support women more effectively?

Your thoughts welcome!

- RW

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