In more recent times, gender diversity on the board and in the workforce has become a key corporate governance issue.  The release of the revised ASX Corporate Governance Council Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations, containing new recommendations related to diversity, has placed significant pressure on corporate Australia to take action to address the gender disparity that currently exists. 

What's new

Interview with Josephine Linden, Australia's most successful female banker in New York

Until she retired recently, Josephine Linden was a partner with Goldman Sachs & Co. in New York where she headed up Private Wealth Management, where she was responsible for management of some $300 billion in client funds.

Excerpt: "I watched other people succeed much faster than I have. It has taken me more years to build up the respect level and more years to build up the credibility than somebody of my talents. And I think that's because I am a woman. Women have to prove themselves more than men."

Read the interview here
Read Josephine Linden's mantras here

Guest column by Juliet Bourke: Leadership - Do men and women do it differently?

There's a popular belief that men and women lead differently. Is it true? If it is more a myth than reality, what does this imply for organisations wishing to address gender inequity? We argue that being an effective leader is not related to being a man or woman; leadership is leadership. Nevertheless underlying beliefs, attitudes and mindsets about apporpriate gender roles influence perceptions about men and women's leadership performance and potential. In essence, if we expect difference, we apply different standards, and "see" different behaviours.

What is needed is a rethink about how gender can be taken out of the leadership assessment equation to enable talent to be viewed individually and not according to latent gender ideas. This rethink will help organisations identify and grow the full talent pool of emerging leaders, and ensure that current leaders are judged objectively.

Read the column here

Guest column by Jillian Segal AM: Report from Australian delegation to Global Women's Forum for the Economy and Society, Deauville, October 2010

Key outcomes of Forum (from the Australian delegation's perspective):

  • Understanding of the European-wide move to quotas for board appointments
  • Increased global understanding and strategic interest in the Australian ASX corporate governance model of business-led targets for increasing the appointment of women
  • Appreciation that the Norway model is not providing all the answers
  • Importance of business led initiatives and high-level CEO commitments to promote women's advancement and empowerment.

Read the column here

Guest column by Irene Lee, How to improve gender diversity on ASX Boards

In Australia, we are on the cusp of implementing corporate governance principles that will require listed companies to publish their diversity policies, develop measurable diversity milestones and report on them annually. While these principles should add pressure on companies to up the ante on diversity, there is concern as to whether this will inspire a true corporate commitment to building diversity or if it will turn into an exercise in compliance and tokenism? Read the column here

Norway finds quota law positive for boardroom and business

A recent Boardroom Impact Conference held in Olso to examine the business and social outcomes of Norway’s Quota Law was attended by Claire Braund, Executive Director and co-founder of Women on Boards, a social enterprise that aims to improve the gender balance on Australian company boards. Claire reports for The Bridge on the effectiveness of the law, which came into full effect for Norwegian Public Listed Companies in July 2008 after a five-year lead-time. Claire also lays to rest the myth, which has now spread around the world, that one woman in Norway holds more than 150 individual directorships. Read the article and case study here

Giam Swiegers (Deloitte CEO): The importance of gender diversity in building and sustaining successful organisations

At a recent Women in Leadership event, Deloitte CEO Giam Swiegers spoke of the importance of gender diversity in building and sustaining successful organisations. In a very personal account of his career, Giam recalled his own challenges as a newly arrived non-English-speaking immigrant to Australia, and spoke frankly about both the challenges and successes Deloitte has faced in promoting the advancement of women. Giam acknowledges there is still much to be done, and looks forward to his role as a member of Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick’s “Male Champions of Change” group. Read the speech here.

Board effectiveness: Corporate Australia - Bridging the gender divide

Since early 2007 Deloitte Australia has held forums for non-executive director's and chairs on key topics.  At the 11 August 2010 forum, Elizabeth Broderick, Sex Discrimination Commissioner and Commissioner responsible for Age Discrimination, and Michael Luscombe, CEO Woolworths, outlined the compelling numbers underpinning the new disclosure requirements and provided recommendations for addressing the gender divide.  Read more here

Director and management diversity survey

In June 2010, Deloitte surveyed 55 directors and 72 executive management on the issue of gender diversity, including their views on the revised ASX Corporate Governance Council Principles and Recommendations.  Please click here to request a full copy of the survey results. 

Diversity and organisational performance

Research has shown that increased gender diversity on boards is associated with better financial performance, and that improved workforce participation at all levels impacts positively on the economy. 

  • The November 2009 report issued by Goldman Sachs JB Were, “Australia’s Hidden Resource: The Economic Case for Increasing Female Participation,” focuses on the economic impact of improving gender diversity within Australia’s workforce. 
  • In the research report, ‘The Bottom Line: Corporate Performance and Women's Representation on Boards,’ Catalyst finds that women board directors align with strong performance at Fortune 500 companies.                © Catalyst, October 2007 Catalyst is the leading non-profit membership organisation working globally with businesses and the professions to build inclusive workplaces and expand opportunities for women and business. With offices in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and more than 400 preeminent corporations as members, Catalyst is the trusted resource for research, information, and advice about women at work.
  • The  authors of research report ‘Critical Mass on Corporate Boards:  Why Three or More Women Enhance Governance’ argue that a critical mass of three or more women on a board can cause a fundamental change in the boardroom and enhance corporate governance. 
  • The business case for women on boards is discussed in the publication 'Women on Boards: Why women on company boards are good for business," a joint initiative between Business New Zealand, The Institute of Directors in New Zealand, and the Ministry of Women's Affairs.  Posted with permission from the New Zealand Ministry of Women’s Affairs, May 2009. 

International developments

Gender diversity has become a key corporate governance issue across the world, with many countries implementing intiatives aimed at promoting greater diversity at a board and senior executive level. 

Europe

North and South America

Asia

  • ACCA Pakistan published a discussion paper in July 2010 "Gender Diversity on Boards in Pakistan."  The paper has been commissioned by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, in partnership with the government of the Netherlands. 

Oceania

  • The New Zealand Shareholders' Association (NZSA) has decided to make diversity on boards one of its three priorities.  Read the media release from the Minister of Women's Affairs New Zealand here

Other research and resources

  • In a landmark case that could see 200,000 low paid workers in the community sector get pay rises of up to 30 per cent, employers have accepted union witness statements without challenge.
    Reprinted courtesy of News Service, published by Thomson Reuters (Professional) Australia Ltd
  • The Australian Institute of Company Directors Board Diversity Guide contains links to information Company Directors has publishted on board composition diversity and women on boards. 
  • Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, launched her Gender Equality Blueprint 2010 at the National Press Club on 23 June 2010.  The document sets out recommendations in five priority areas, including promoting women in leadership.  Posted with permission from the Australian Human Rights Commission. 
  • The FINSIA member opinion poll of over 800 male and female finance professionals revealed startlingly different views between male and female respondents concerning the representation and treatment of women within Australia’s financial services industry.  Read the media release here and the full report herePosted with permission from FINSIA, copyright 2010.
  • 'Is there merit in quotas' - speech by Elizabeth Broderick, Sex Discrimination Commissioner, at the Second Diversity on Boards Conference in September 2009.  Posted with permission from the Australian Human Rights Commission. 
  • The Catalyst research report, “Advancing Women Leaders: The Connection Between Women Board Directors and Women Corporate Officers" argues that the number of women on a company’s board is directly connected to the future number of women in its senior management ranks. 
    © Catalyst, July 2008.  Catalyst is the leading non-profit membership organisation working globally with businesses and the professions to build inclusive workplaces and expand opportunities for women and business. With offices in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and more than 400 preeminent corporations as members, Catalyst is the trusted resource for research, information, and advice about women at work.

Key Deloitte contacts

The ASX Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations

  • The revised Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations require ASX-listed organisations to report certain information in relation to gender diversity.  The effective date is financial reporting periods commencing on or after 1 January 2011, with early adoption encouraged.   
  • In this Corporate Governance Alert, Deloitte discusses the new recommendations relating to diversity and proposes actions that organisations can take to address diversity gaps.  
  • The AICD has published a new booklet which explains the new recommendations and provides some practical tips to help entities to get started on embedding diversity within the culture of their organisation. 
  • The March 2009 CAMAC report, ‘Diversity on boards of directors’, examines the issue of diversity in corporate boards.  Among other things, the report contains suggestions for reform to the Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations, which were considered by the Council.  

Leadership census

  • According to results released by the AICD in September 2010, the number of women being appointed to ASX 200 boards in 2010 has increased significantly, resulting in an increase in the percentage of women on these boards from 8.3% in 2008 to 9.2% in June 2010 and 10% in September 2010. 
  • The EOWA 2008 Census of Women in Leadership found that the number of women on ASX 200 boards and in executive management positions had declined since 2006 and that Australia was now trailing the USA, UK, South Africa and New Zealand on the issue of diversity. 

 

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