Margaret Jackson was the first women to chair an Australian top 50 company and has been undoubtedly the number one female professional director in the country since 1993 when she landed BHP.
However, many of her gigs — BHP, Southcorp, Pacific Dunlop and Fairfax — are in the past. Once Jackson quits at the Qantas AGM in November, and assuming she doesn’t land the chair at ANZ, she will remain an important figure, but surrender her leadership position.
Here’s my ranking of the top 10 female directors in Australia based on the prestige of current boards seats, the performance of those companies and the reputations of the individuals:
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Stephen Mayne’s top ten female directors 1. Linda Nicholls: former chairman of Australia Post, Victorian chairman of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a director of four successful companies – St George Bank, Healthscope, Sigma Pharmaceutical and Insurance Manufacturers Australia.
2. Jillian Segal: former ASIC deputy chair who now sits on the board of NAB and ASX.
3. Paula Dwyer: unblemished investment banker with board seats at Suncorp, Tabcorp, David Jones and Babcock & Brown Japan. Married to Crikey sports contributor Charles Happell.
4. Helen Nugent: former Westpac strategy chief and now a director of Macquarie Bank, Origin Energy, and Freehills as well as being Chairman of Funds SA, Swiss Re Life & Health Australia and Hudson Australia/New Zealand.
5. Margaret Jackson: outgoing Qantas chair but still a director of ANZ and Billabong and chair of emerging finance company Flexigroup.
6. Patricia Cross: a Margaret Jackson protégé and former NAB treasury boss (pre-scandal) who suffered a hit when forced to quit the AMP board in 2003, but has come back with gigs at NAB, Qantas and Wesfarmers.
7. Sandra McPhee: former Qantas sales and marketing chief who now sits on boards including Coles, Perpetual, Australia Post and AGL Energy.
8. Elizabeth Nosworthy: Brisbane lawyer who now chairs Commander Communications and Queensland Water and is a director of Babcock & Brown, GPT and Ventracor.
9. Catherine Walter: former Clayton Utz partner who, despite the NAB fiasco, remains a director of Orica and ASX, both of which are powering ahead.
10. Patricia Akopiantz: former McKinsey consultant and now a director of Coles, Axa Asia Pacific, Wattyl and Energy Australia.
* This might be a tad contentious so vent your spleen to [email protected] if you’ve been unfairly left off.