With the markets tanking again and pressure mounting for Australia to fix its woeful record when it comes to female representation on public company boards, there is no time like the present to purge some of the long serving or poorly performing blokes in the directors’ club.
It remains a complete disgrace that only 8.3% of ASX100 directors are female, when studies show that board diversity tends to produce better results. The solution is for all public companies to aim for at least two female directors, not just the single token woman who can then feel uncomfortably isolated.
I’ve only been raising the issue of gender diversity at AGMs for six months, coinciding with the unprecedented push we’re currently seeing involving various women’s networks, along with the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Business Council of Australia.
David Jones and Seek were both given a rocket on the same day at AGMs last November and within weeks had added new female directors.
Whilst we can all talk in generalities about statistics and principles, real change also requires some name and shame tactics and direct action.
I flew to Adelaide on Wednesday for the OZ Minerals and Adelaide Brighton AGMs because these two companies have never had a female director.
It was great to see the back of 76-year-old Adelaide Brighton chairman Malcolm Kinnaird who retired at the end of the meeting and responded to the board diversity question by noting there was a lot of “social pressure” to appoint females.
Adelaide Brighton is now looking for up to three new directors and let’s hope incoming chairman Chris Harris, who has served with this all-blokes board for 15 years, gets with the program.
Here are some suggested resignations that could potentially create vacancies to be filled by many of the talented and under-worked women on this list which tracks the top 75 female directors in Australia.
David Ryan: still yet to be held to account as the long-time audit committee chair of ABC Learning, he should immediately resign as Transurban chair and a Lend Lease director.
Brian Jamieson: having just taken the chair at Sigma Pharmaceutical he is now over-committed. Given the fiasco of OZ Minerals, an all-blokes board, that would be the appropriate position to quit.
John Stocker: being Donald McGauchie’s surviving chief backer at Telstra and the now departed chair of Sigma Pharmaceutical he should quit all boards, including the struggling Nufarm.
Peter Ritchie and Murray Wells: have served for far too long on the Seven board and didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory during the recent $2 billion Westrac related party deal. Ritchie predicted Seven shares would surpass the record high of $14.68 in 2008. Today they are at $6.50, suggesting it paid too much to fix Kerry Stokes’ $1 billion private debt problem.
Ken Cowley: News Corp director since 1979 who turns 76 this year and should stand aside so the Sun King can appoint a second female to the board, joining the 30 year old opera singer Natalie Bancroft.
Trevor Gerber: dreadful record at Valad Property Group, lead independent director of Macquarie Airports who championed the outrageous $345 million divorce payment to Macquarie and also chaired one of the dud Babcock vehicles. Should be off all public company boards yet Risk Metrics has apparently supported his re-election at next week’s MAP AGM.
Barry Cusack: still hanging around the Toll board despite all the disasters of Oxiana and OZ Minerals. Toll has no female directors, so this 68-year should shuffle off promptly to create a vacancy.
Donald Morley: Hugh Morgan’s long-time finance director at WMC is approaching 70 and has done a poor job as the over-paid chairman of post box company Alumina for the past eight years. Alumina, Toll Holdings, OZ Minerals, Newcrest and Orica and the five Melbourne-based companies in the top 50 without any female representation on the board.
Stephen Mayne founded Crikey in February 2000, and has remained as a contributor since selling it in 2005. He’s currently a City of Melbourne councillor, shareholder advocate and broad campaigner for transparency and accountability across the media, business and political sectors.