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Women Getting Into Boards - Report Shows Inequality

28 September 2009 at 3:52 pm
Staff Reporter
Men with friends in high places get preferential treatment when it comes to Board appointments in Australia according to a new report.

Staff Reporter | 28 September 2009 at 3:52 pm


Women Getting Into Boards - Report Shows Inequality
28 September 2009 at 3:52 pm

Men with friends in high places get preferential treatment when it comes to Board appointments in Australia according to a new report.

The Australian Centre for Leadership for Women (CLW) conducted an online survey in 2009 about the difficulties women face getting into boards. 317 women participated in the survey, with 93% being Australian.

The Women Getting Into Boards Report 2009 findings show that women indicate that the recruitment process of boards predominantly is inequitable as it lacks transparency, clearly defined and realistic criteria and is advertised to a selective group.

It found that women do not have the opportunity to apply because they do not know which boards have vacancies. When they do apply, they are judged against criteria which are discriminatory and attitudes which rate their achievements and experiences as unimportant and un-transferable.

The report says women’s evaluation of the effectiveness of resources they access to gain board positions indicate that networks are more effective when competency and achievement are promoted and recognized: then only are they really seen.

They identify a number of initiatives that workplaces, government and boards can undertake to assist women achieve board positions which they are keenly interested in so that they can empower organisations and themselves.

Of the 317 women who participated in the Women Getting into Boards Survey, the following characteristics apply:

Type of Current Board Memberships:

– 15% are on Public boards.
– 11% are on Private boards.
– 7% are on Not for Profit (NFP) boards.
– 4% are on both NFP and Private boards.

227 of the 317 women or 72% of women surveyed have a Board Membership profile; that is they had held Board directorships and/or are currently holding Board positions.

Women in the 40-49 years age group had ranked highest as the group with most Board positions. This was followed by women in the 50-59 years group.

All of the women who were in Finance related positions were Board members. Community Development, Business and Law closely followed with approximately 80% of those employed in these sectors having Board positions.

155 women or 49% of the women surveyed did not use any resources to gain Board Membership positions. 128 women or 40% used resources and it is unknown what resources 11% of women used.

Of the 128 women who did use resources, Networks ranked the highest with its frequency of usage being 35%. Federal and state registers had a frequency of usage of 11%. Women on Boards had 10% and Training courses 6%.

Of the women who were successful in achieving Board positions (past and current), 147 women had accessed resources. 120 women had not used any resources but still attained a Board position.

Of the 147 women who were successful in achieving Board positions (past and current), 69 women said that they did not believe using the resources led to their Board position with 59 saying that they did.

The report says the difficulties that women are experiencing in attaining board positions are:

– Access to information about board positions and vacancies
– Lack of availability of positions
– Not having access to male dominated networks, not being in relevant networks and/or not having effective networking results thus not being seen, recommended, approached or aware of board positions
– Closed shop mentality of boards in whom they hire, the type of experience they are looking for, discriminatory perceptions of women and their caring responsibilities; ageism, attitudes about rural regions and racism.
– Lack of time, finance and confidence to seek and apply board positions

Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick congratulated the Australian Centre for Leadership for Women on the release of their Women Getting Into Boards Report 2009 saying the number of women on company boards in this country is significantly behind that of other countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada and New Zealand.

Commissioner Broderick says this report reinforces the additional barriers that women face in the corporate world in Australia and agrees with the report that government intervention is required if women are to see results.

The report says women want the Government to:

– Advertise positions openly and widely with clear, realistic criteria that is merit based and recognises the transferability of skills, experience and knowledge and women’s life journeys and roles of caring.
– Actively promote and seek more women to apply for board positions and acknowledge and reinforce their achievement in all sectors, including the NFP sector.
– Set the example with having more women on public boards and set incentives for private boards to follow
– Ensure gender equality, equity and diversity on boards by making boards accountable
– Provide specific assistance of funding, mentoring, training, networking, developing effective registers
– Put in place quotas for gender balance on boards

The Women Getting Into Boards report 2009 is available online at:

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