Just 8% of Australian companies are making a demonstrable commitment to gender divsersity principles, writes Women’s Agenda acting editor Georgina Dent.
Less than two weeks after the new government unveiled a cabinet with just one woman, we learn that the representation of women in our biggest organisations remains a low priority.
This is clearly demonstrated by the Women on Boards Traffic Light Index, which rates the ASX200 companies on their diversity practices. The report launched in Sydney today indicates that almost half of those companies have minimal compliance with basic gender diversity principles. Only 8% received a green light, recognising companies that have truly embedded diversity.
Speaking at the launch today, Women on Boards chairwoman and report author Ruth Medd said the results were disappointing. “While some ASX200 companies significantly improved their reporting on gender balance in 2013, better performance is still eluding many,” Medd said. “Unfortunately 15.5%, or 31 companies, rated red, meaning they show little or no compliance at all with basic gender diversity principles.”
A further 30% of companies rated only slightly higher at the bottom of the amber category. “So there are 90 companies that could benefit from lifting their game around diversity initiatives,” Medd said.
The remaining 110 companies have diversity policies and measurable targets in place. The 16 top-rating companies are those making real progress that have implemented innovative policies and best practice programs.
“Unsurprisingly there is a clear disparity in the gender balance practice in companies with female directors and those who have none,” Medd said. “Of the red-rated companies, 77% have no female directors while more than 80% of the green-rated companies have at least two females on their boards.”
Even still, progress in the top-rated organisations is still slow. The number of females in the leadership ranks in companies that received the green light has increased by 2% from last year.
“We cannot keep ignoring the stark reality that in corporate Australia in 2013 women still receive lower pay, fewer board seats and fewer senior executive roles,” Medd said. “Whether it stems from an unconscious bias, traditional work cultures or simple ignorance, companies cannot continue in this vein. This is why we ‘encourage’ the companies that are falling short in their gender diversity compliance and recognise those making real progress by publicly naming them alongside their ranking.”
New to the green rating in 2013 are Aurizon, Caltex and Suncorp Metway, joining the ASX, Commonwealth Bank, Commonwealth Property Office and CFS Retail Property Trust Group, MirvacGroup, National Australia Bank, Stockland, Telstra, Transurban Group, Westpac, Woolworths and Wotif.com as the companies leading gender diversity performance and reporting in Australia.
“There are a number of key factors that need attention,” executive director of Women on Boards Claire Braund said. “Firstly companies need to understand where they are with effective and transparent gender data sets then set rigorous measurable objectives to improve and pay attention to deliverables like reducing the gender pay gap and appreciating flexible working.”