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Corporate boards reserved for women of wealth, new research finds

 — 1 minute read

A new study has drawn attention to the “homogeneity” of women in board positions.

More attention needs to be given to diversity on Australian boards after new research revealed a majority of female board members are white, 60 years of age and live in affluent suburbs. 

“Factors such as place of residence, age, social clubs, and parents’ occupation indicate life experiences similar to the men in the boardroom,” Macquarie University research fellow Dr Claire Wright said. 

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Moreover, Macquarie found that women occupying the top positions tended to be lawyers, accountants and investment bankers and had a middle or upper middle-class background, with “very few exceptions”. 

As part of her research, Dr Wright examined the boards of Australia’s top 25 financial companies and top 100 non-financial companies from 1910 until 2018.

What she found is a slight uptick in the representation of women on boards over the past 10 years. 

And while gender diversity is being “bedded down” in the boardroom, Dr Wright noted the need to shift attention to ethnic diversity, as well as diversity across multiple lines including age and profession.

“Research has shown that diversity is good for innovation, governance, and decision-making,” said Dr Wright.

“How we consider diversity is really important for the future of leadership.”

According to Dr Wright, the actions taken by the government, the Australian Stock Exchange and professional bodies such as the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) have increased the impetus to train, mentor and appoint women to board positions.

“These external pressures have created space for women to occupy corporate leadership roles,” said Dr Wright.

In August, the AICD reported that there were no all-male boards in the ASX 200 for the first time in history.

According to the AICD’s latest figures, women now hold 34 per cent of board positions at ASX 200 companies compared to 8.3 per cent in 2009.

“To ensure this momentum continues, boards also need to look further into the diversity of their executive teams,” said AICD CEO and MD Angus Armour.

“The board plays a key role in setting the tone for inclusion within an organisation, and through their own modelling of diversity can play an influential role in inspiring and supporting women into management roles.”

As part of its 2021 census, Chief Executive Women found that women made up only 5 per cent of CEOs in the ASX 200, remaining unchanged since 2017.

Corporate boards reserved for women of wealth, new research finds

A new study has drawn attention to the “homogeneity” of women in board positions.

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Jon Bragg

Jon Bragg

Jon Bragg is a journalist for Momentum Media's Investor Daily, nestegg and ifa. He enjoys writing about a wide variety of financial topics and issues and exploring the many implications they have on all aspects of life.

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