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ACSI benchmark for ASX200 companies will not be achieved until 2024 at current rate Figures from the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ASCI) suggest the rate of improvement regarding gender diversity is too slow.

ACSI's annual audit into board diversity of ASX 200 companies show on aggregate, 15.5 per cent of board positions are held by women - up from 14 per cent in 2012. Men hold over 1,000 more board positions than women.

"Although there has been some progress, the rate at which change is taking place is incredibly slow. Frankly, it is unacceptable. Surely there were more than 24 women available for appointment to board positions in the last year? It paints a very disappointing picture on the issue of board diversity overall," said ACSI president Gerard Noonan.

ACSI advocated for improved board gender diversity in 2010. It announced ASX200 companies should achieve a benchmark of at least two women directors on their boards by 2014. A total of 66 per cent of ASX200 companies currently underperform.

At the current rate, it would take 11 years to achieve the ACSI benchmark for ASX200 companies.

If the EU directive on gender diversity is approved, it would require 40 per cent of boards to be comprised of women by 2020. At present, Australia would not achieve this until 2030.

"ACSI has a strong expectation that ASX200 companies that are yet to address this situation do so actively in 2013. Progress at the current rate is unacceptable. We will take particular interest in 2013 director elections and annual reports as a further progress check, prior to the 2014 deadline," Mr Noonan said.

"If companies cannot adapt to meet the 2014 benchmark without good reason - a benchmark that really is quite a modest one - we may need to consider recommending that our members vote against re-election of incumbent boards.

"In addition, if the current rate of change does not improve, it will be difficult for ACSI not to consider calling for regulatory intervention via quotas."

ACSI's findings conflict with an ASX-commissioned report conducted by KPMG. It analyses compliance by 600 ASX-listed companies with the ASX Corporate Governance Council's gender diversity principles and recommendations, introduced in 2011.

This report suggests the majority of Australia's listed companies have a gender diversity policy in place, or plan to implement one.

"Notably, Australia's top 200 listed companies are setting a strong example with almost all of them reporting that they have diversity policies in place. Smaller listed companies that do not have policies in place indicated that their size and stage of development was a barrier to establishing a diversity policy," said Jillian Segal, non-executive director of ASX Limited.

The companies surveyed identified several key benefits of having a diversity policy, including improved culture and corporate image and improvements to the bottom line.

The findings suggest larger companies are more likely to have diversity policies with measurable objectives. The data indicated there is a direct and positive correlation between the size of an entity and the development of measurable objectives.

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