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How Australia ranks globally on gender diversity in governance

New research sheds light on how Australia is faring, relative to overseas jurisdictions, on elevating women to the boardroom and other senior governance positions.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 09 March 2021 Corporate Counsel
How Australia ranks globally on gender diversity in governance
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The Chartered Governance Institute (CGI) has released its Women in the Boardroom: International Governance Stocktake report, which compares the status of women on boards with direct comparable data from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, the UK and Zimbabwe.

Insights from the report show that progress towards a better gender balance on boards across the globe is “often slow, uneven and patchy”.

“The need for greater board gender diversity is recognised worldwide as a significant contributing factor to creating the best possible diversity of thought within the boardroom. Different countries may be taking different paths and at a different pace, but they are all working towards the goal of fair and equal treatment and opportunities for women to serve on boards,” CGI international president Peter Turnbull wrote.


“It is also clear that board gender diversity is now recognised as not just an issue of equality between men and women, but also as a contribution to more effective boards, corporate performance and to maintaining a social licence to operate.”

The national percentage of women on boards in Australia, since 2014, has increased, according to the research, putting it in good stead to international counterparts.

In 2018, females made up 25.4 per cent of Australian boards, compared to just 15.1 per cent in 2014. When considering that the international average for the aforementioned nine countries was 21.2 per cent of women on boards two years ago, compared to 13.2 per cent in 2014, Australia ranks third out of the nine.

When looking at the quantum of new members joining governance bodies, Australia has substantially improved its gender parity. Before 1980, women made up just 2 per cent of new members of governance bodies here, but in 2020, the split was more heavily skewed towards women, making up almost two-thirds of new CGI Australia memberships compared to men making up 36 per cent.

The data on existing member gender percentages shows there is still a way to go, however. By 2020, women made up just 25 per cent of Australian governance member bodies, while men dominated the cohort at 76 per cent. Compared to the international average of 55.7 per cent being men and 44.3 per cent being women, Australia has clear improvements to make.

Speaking about the research, Governance Institute of Australia chief executive Megan Motto said that the stocktake conducted by CGI “puts an important global lens on the key issue of board gender diversity”.

“Australia certainly compares reasonably well in several categories at a global level, including ranking third highest for the percentage of women on boards. But, of course, there is much more to be done,” she reflected.

“From our own perspective at Governance Institute, we have seen a major evolution of our membership from 1927 when the first female member was admitted, to 2020 when more than 60 per cent of new members are female.”

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