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Why 2019 has been the worst year in a decade for women on boards

2019 hasn't been a good year for women on boards. Source: Getty

This year will likely go down as the worst year in a decade for improving the gender balance on ASX 200 boards, according to new research from Financy.

Women occupied 29.5 per cent of ASX 200 board positions in September, down slightly from 29.7 per cent in June, according to the Financy Women’s latest Index Report.

“The result reflects a year of relatively little action towards improving gender diversity,” the report stated.

“In fact, in the year to date, the rate of progress for female ASX 200 board appointments is actually down 0.2 percentage points – the weakest result since we started collecting data in 2009.”

ASX 200 female board appointments over the years. Source: Financy

Australian Institute of Company Directors managing director, Angus Armour, said the findings “should serve as a wake-up call to directors, investors and shareholders across the ASX 200”.

In 2017, female ASX 200 board appointments progressed at an annual rate of 0.9 percentage points, while in 2013 the rate was 1.9 percentage points.

2018 was the best year, with a 3.7 percentage point improvement.

According to Financy, the result was likely to have been influenced by uncertainty in the economy and the Banking Royal Commission.

Seven companies in the ASX 200 do not have a single woman on their boards: TPG, Telecom Limited, HUB24 Limited, Pro Medicus, Silver Lake, Speedcast International Limited, NRW Holdings Limited and Polynovo Limited.

But it’s not all bad news.

The top 20 listed Aussie companies are doing significantly more to improve gender diversity: female representation on ASX 20 boards rose to 35.1 per cent in September from 34.4 per cent in June.

This equates to 115 male directors and 60 female directors this quarter compared to 122 male directors and 64 female directors in June.

What can we do to get more women on boards?

Financy suggested continued support, awareness and focus on the AICD target of 30 per cent as a baseline for gender diversity on company boards is needed to get more women on boards.

“Actions that also could be taken include the setting of board targets by companies, as well as internal sponsorship programs for female directors, improved and transparent board recruitment processes, which could greatly assist in growing the number of women occupying board positions,” the report said.

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