Companies

May 21, 2010

The blokes who should step aside for female directors

It's time for Australia to fix its woeful record when it comes to female representation on public company boards. Here's some suggestions of which men should clear out to give the ladies some room.

Stephen Mayne — Journalist and Founder

Stephen Mayne

Journalist and Founder

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.

3 comments

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3 thoughts on “The blokes who should step aside for female directors

  1. Julius

    Well done in not falling for some pious pretence that only something close to 50 per cent women on listed company boards would be acceptable. It is obvious that motherhood diminishes the time many women use to qualify themselves for board membership, that there is still a legacy of older directors who are, for historical reasons, male (and about which you complain with some justice when you point to the dead wood to be axed).

    We may also be getting to the point where the upsurge in female ambition to live the life which gave significance and even, apparently, satisfaction to their male peers is receding. That said,
    anything under 15 or 20 per cent seems, intuitively, to be too few from any tenable point of view or criterion.

    You do, however, make points about particular companies which seems to miss some relevant points. Whether you take the view that women on boards are valuable mostly because they are different from men or because including them shows that you are choosing from a larger unisex pool of more or less standard director material it does seem wise to acknowledge some differences between men and women, or, more accurately, the pool of male talent and that of female talent.

    Set aside the awkwardness of some arguments for women judges which are based on them being different which can only raise the question of different brands and standards of justice according to whether you get a female or male judge, the fact is that there would be far more women with something to contribute to the policies, practice and governance of retailing, banking, passenger transport, media, food manufacturing and clothing companies than, e.g. mining, goods transport, machine tool or heavy engineering companies. Partly it may be for the reason that Esso (and perhaps Exxon) used to have a board stacked with engineers – as to which one might have started with the objection that finance and HR were underrepresented by any rational standard – but partly it might result simply from the way female preferences and/or opportunities result in different qualifications by experience.

    If your main point is not so much to put the best directed and precisely arguments for more female board appointments but to attack the indulgence of failures, you have my sympathy in that too, although association with failures is only a rough rule of thumb clue to whether the experienced director has something useful to contribute still. Likewise with age, though there is no doubt that some formerly capable 75 year olds are well passed their best and often cannot meet the requirements where high energy and long hours of application are required.

  2. Gavin Moodie

    It is great to read Mayne finally agitating for more female representation on company boards. Having started with the unpleasant task of fingering the fogies who should be voted off, maybe you could next consider who might be more suitable appointments.

  3. dmc333

    i can’t believe the buffoonery of peter cook doesn’t rate a mention here. ask any one with a long term holding in biota and see what they think of him, it wouldn’t be positive.

    he’s largely insulated because the company makes money regardless of his ineptness, not that it helps the share price.

    being offered a 75 million settlement from gsk, turning it down, wasting 40 million in legal fees, then settling for 20 million a few years later would have to rate as an first rate corporate howler.

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