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Which ASX companies offer the biggest opportunities to women?

A number of Australian businesses are now reporting — and improving — the representation of women on boards and across their workforces. But there’s still plenty of work to be done.

Gender diversity among publicly listed companies is still in its infancy, a report by accounting firm KPMG reveals.

Listed companies have shown they are fairly good at complying the gender diversity component of the Australian Securities Exchange corporate governance guidelines, but little has changed in terms of total numbers of women on boards, in senior executive and management roles.

The bigger the company, the better the compliance, but the mid-sized listed companies in the range from ASX201-500 have a higher percentage of women in senior executive roles (34%) than the ASX200, which achieved 20% in senior executive positions.

Claire Braund, executive director of Women on Boards, the peak body lobbying to improve gender diversity, says the ASX CGC Diversity Report findings are largely consistent with its own annual “Traffic Lights Review”, in which the performance of ASX200 companies is analysed against a set of gender balance indicators. “We completed the same task last year and, with 57 companies analysed to date, at least 30% are showing an increase in their reporting of diversity data and policies,” Braund said.

Of course improved reporting does not necessarily mean improved performance, but it is encouraging to see more companies taking their obligations regarding gender diversity more seriously.”

The most recent results from the Australian Institute of Executive Directors shows women make up 15.4% of ASX200 companies board positions and 49% of ASX200 companies have no women on their boards at all. Seven women have been appointed to directors roles in the first few months of 2013, and women make up 19% of new appointments.

The report does not show the actual numbers of women on boards, in executive roles or as a percentage of the total in listed companies, although the ASX recommend companies report measurable progress.

WOB’s index reveals the precise number of women on the boards of the S&P/ASX100. Currently being updated, it’s data for 2012 reveals a gloomier picture of progress. Only 10 companies in its analysis of 98 firms from the ASX100 (and some from the ASX200) get the top honour — a green light — - from the index which means they have a gender policy, have targets for improving progress, have achieved results, link their progress to key performance indicators and apply policy at every level of the organisation. Some 29 are in the red category — no policy, no progress and no results — while the remainder are in amber (slowly inching towards change).

WOB chair Ruth Medd says the ASX report is encouraging but there is still a lot of work to be done. Medd has scoured the latest batch of annual reports to uncover innovative approaches to gender diversity …

Brambles:

One of the few companies to report on pay equity, the professional services company is setting an example on one of the most important factors in achieving gender equity. “Pay equity is a big issue and many organisations say they are doing pay audits, but few make it public. Brambles do,” Medd said.

Across the company as a whole, men were paid 9% more than women in 2010-11. In 2011-12, they received 1% more than women. In non-management roles, women used to receive 5% more than men; men now receive 1% more. In management roles, a dramatic change has occurred: men used to be paid 16% more than women, and are now paid 6% more — not equal but a big change. “My only proviso with this data is that it is a matter of how you calculate it,” Medd said.

Asciano:

This year the ports and logistics business reported gender numbers outside the board for the first time. The board balance remains the same — 14% or one in seven — but the company reports its senior management is 9.5% women (two out of 21) and it has 40% female employees.

CSR:

The capital goods company achieved a 30% rate of internal promotions for women even though they constitute only 14% of the company’s workforce.

JB Hi Fi:

The retailer didn’t report last time, but this time has set targets across every level of management: commission sales roles, store managers, regional managers and senior managers.

Atlas Iron:

Although the materials company has not listed the initiatives it has taken, it has managed to achieve 22% women’s representation on the board (down from 25% — one of four — last year), 34% employee representation and 30% of executives, up from 31% and 21% respectively last year.

*This article was originally published at LeadingCompany

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