According to WGEA 2021 report, “Increasing the share of women on boards leads to better outcomes for gender equality …across a suite of metrics”.* In fact they found that a board of 50-50  has led to a 6.3% reduction in the gender pay gap for full-time managers.

Why does this make a difference?

According to Paul Zahra Australian Retailers Association CEO, and judge for the Gender Equity Awards,” If you take a look at retail, women contribute around 75% of consumer spending and make up 57% of our workforce, yet only occupy 27% of board positions at Australian retailers. For a business to truly achieve gender equality, the leadership needs to come from the top and companies need to ask themselves if their executives are a reflection of their broader workforce and customers, and if not – why not?” He sees the results across the entire retail industry and he agrees that Gender equality comes down to leadership, and the best action corporate Australia can take is setting and maintaining a 50-50 representation of women on company boards.”

And if we take Australia as a whole, whilst some businesses are taking action, there is still a long way to go. Many of the companies claim the problem is the lack of talented women who can contribute to boards.

We asked another judge, Jo Plummer, experienced board Chair, whether she felt this was an adequate excuse.

“Like with most change, it requires the courage to think and act differently. It’s often the embedded systems that hold us back when it comes to creative thinking and like with little red cars, once you see one……they’re everywhere! I was speaking with an experienced female recruiter regarding ASX directorships just two months ago who told me their clients would only likely consider candidates with C-suite experience*#@!  We know that is a very small pond to fish in and is unlikely to address gender equity across ASX directorships. Great female talent exists in all sorts of crevices which we must be prepared to explore.” A very small pond indeed with only 18 CEO in ASX listed companies as of 2021. She went on to suggest that skilled CEOs were to be found in our entrepreneur community running medium businesses.

From the recruitment perspective yes, good talent is hard to find, especially if you are looking for a tick box solution. There are many capable women out there that could do a brilliant job as board directors, however, all too often firms are insisting they have ASX, C-suite experience. It is the next bias to look for board directors who reflect the existing team, rather than reflect their consumers & stakeholders. Sharon Crain, Managing Director, Open Door Recruitment and Development has this challenge every day as she focuses on female recruitment. Her advice is to businesses looking to find more female board members need to “make a conscious decision to change and be willing to compromise to achieve that change”.

Encouraging open-minded thinking is one-way boards can open themselves up to more diversity which has been proven to lead to better profits and business success.

If you know of other activities or companies that are driving gender equality we encourage you to invite them to enter Recalibrate: Gender Equity Awards to determine what are the best practices for businesses of all sizes. We want to know who the individuals are making a difference, and to celebrate their achievements.  The goal is to speed up gender equity by raising awareness of great behaviour and sharing best practices.

The Awards close on 30th August.

*Wgea curtain report