Best and Worst Companies for Women on Boards Revealed

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Medibank Private, Mirvac Group, DUET Group, Spark Infrastructure and Woolworths are among the top ASX 100 companies for appointing women to boards, a new report says.

Some of the worst in the same index include TPG Telecom and Qube Holdings, with no female board members. Westfield had one woman on its board out of 12 spots and Oil Search has one out of nine, the Catalyst think tank report released on Tuesday shows.

Dominos, which had none at the time of the research, has since appointed one woman to its board – Lynda O’Grady in April 2015.

The research used ASX companies 2014-15 annual reports to assess their boards, management, policies, and gender pay gaps. It found company policies were improving but the pay gap remained under-reported.

Minister for Women Michaelia Cash, who will address the National Press Club on Tuesday to mark International Women’s Day, said improved gender representation improved companies’ bottom lines.

“Research proves time and time again that having women in the leadership mix fosters innovation and improves organisational performance.”

With only about one in four ASX 50 board positions taken by women, “substantial barriers to female career advancement” remain in Australia, and “quantifiable targets” are needed to change the situation, the report says.

Healthcare companies and some of the smaller ASX 200 companies are out-doing some of the larger ASX 50 companies in appointing females to management positions, the research shows.

Women take up on average 37 per cent of management positions in the ASX 200, more than the average 29 per cent women in management in the ASX 50.

Management at Healthscope is 80 per cent female, Primary Health Care is 60 per cent female, and the percentage of women in management positions at Ramsay Health Care and Sonic Healthcare is 53 per cent.

Closer to the bottom of the table, mining companies such as Alumina and Iluka Resources, JB Hi-Fi, biotech company Sirtex Medical and infrastructure company Downer EDI all had less than 10 per cent of women in management positions.

In terms of board positions, the trend is reversed and ASX 50 companies have 27 per cent female board members, while ASX 200 companies have just 22 per cent on average.

The report was complied by UTS Corporate governance researcher Martijn Boersma for the union-aligned think tank Catalyst.

The ASX 50 has five chief executive named Andrew, four named Michael but only three who are women: Alison Watkins of Coca-Cola Amatil, Susan Lloyd-Horwitz, of Mirvac Group, and Kerrie Mather, of Sydney Airport,” Mr Boersma said.

The report said the fact that all ASX 50 boards had at least one woman and “the majority of boards have two or more female directors . . . suggests that tokenism is not an issue”.

The authors said, however, the low number of female managers in the ASX 50 and the low number of female chief executives “remains a major problem”.

This article was originally publish in the Australian Financial Review

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