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Women now make up 30% of board positions at Australia's largest companies for the first time

Sharon Masige
  • 30% of board positions in ASX200 companies are held by women for the first time, according to The Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD).
  • It comes four years after the AICD set the target to increase the number of women in board positions in Australia.
  • AICD CEO and Managing Director Angus Armour called it a "great achievement".
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

A major gender diversity target has been reached in Australia.

For the first time, the percentage of women on ASX200 boards – the 200 largest companies listed on the Australian Securities Exchange – has reached 30% according to The Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD).

It comes after AICD's four-year campaign to drive up gender diversity on Australian boards.

Back in 2015, when women accounted for 20% of ASX 200 boards, the AICD set a voluntary target to reach 30% by the end of 2018.

AICD CEO and Managing Director, Angus Armour said in a statement that while they reached the target later than planned, it is still "a great achievement."

"We should celebrate the progress that has been made, which is evidence that meaningful change can be achieved through voluntary targets," he said.

“It is clear that Australia’s largest companies see the value of board diversity; a diverse mix of views and perspectives around the table increases board performance and reduces the risk of group think."

Interestingly, it's among the largest of companies that women are better represented -- the AICD found women accounted for 35.2% of board positions in Australia's 20 biggest public companies.

“We should recognise the commitment of community and business leaders to achieve this milestone and applaud Australia’s top 100 listed companies for leading the way and surpassing 30 per cent,” Armour said.

Nicola Wakefield Evans, chair of the 30% Club which advocates for the target, said in a statement the achievement couldn't have been made without efforts from senior chairs, investors, fund managers and other advocates on the issue.

“While this is significant step in our journey, it’s important to remember that 30% is the floor, not the ceiling – so while we applaud the ongoing hard work of each board that is addressing gender diversity, we will ensure there is continued pressure on those who don’t, to continue increasing the number of female directors,” Evans said.

Armour said the challenge now is to maintain momentum. "Smaller listed companies need to demonstrate they are also committed to the benefits of gender diversity,” he said.

Despite the landmark, there are still seven companies in the ASX 200 that don't have any women on their boards as of November 30.

These include TPG Telecom Limited, HUB24 Limited (Ruth Stringer is set to join the board in 2020), NRW Holdings Limited, Pro Medicus Limited, New Hope Corporation Limited, Silver Lake Resources Limited and Speedcast International Limited.

In the March quarter of 2018, more women where appointed in boardrooms than men in ASX200 companies. It was the first time more women were appointed than men since the AICD started tracking appointment rates in 2009.

The AICD's latest report comes after the World Economic Forum released its Global Gender Gap Report 2020, which looks at the progress 153 countries have made toward gender parity. In the report, Australia slipped five spots to rank 44th globally.

Read more: The highest-paid CEO in Australia is a woman for the first time ever, as Macquarie Group CEO Shemara Wikramanayake surges to the top