Catherine Livingstone speaks at the 2015 Telstra AGM

It was a welcome change to see this page-1 story yesterday in The Australian Financial Review about the hostile tilt Elizabeth Crouch is running against the all-boys board at Brickworks. Crouch, who is backed by Perpetual, will be defeated by the undemocratic cross-shareholding Brickworks has with sibling company Soul Pattinson, but at least she’s a high-calibre candidate who is prepared to have a go. The arguments for and against her nomination make for interesting reading on pages 7-9 of the Brickworks notice of meeting. The current system of progression by women in corporate Australia involves their being invited into what is still a male-dominated club. What follows is the current ranking of the top 25 female directors in Australia, but it really is a shame that none of them have ever directly presented themselves to shareholders without first being “invited” to fill a casual vacancy. 1. Catherine Livingstone: arguably the most accomplished female CEO from her six-year stint running Cochlear up until 2000; did a decade on the Macquarie Group board, including as audit committee chair; chair of Telstra since 2009; previously chaired the CSIRO and has served on Worley Parsons board since 2007. 2. Paula Dwyer: former investment banker and is the current chair of Tabcorp and Healthscope, plus a director of ANZ. Previous experience on boards including Suncorp, Foster's, David Jones, Leighton Holdings, RACV and Astro Japan (formerly Babcock & Brown Japan). 3. Elizabeth Bryan: the former CEO of NSW State Super is now chair of Caltex (until December 9, 2015) and Virgin Australia. She is about to get another three-year term at Westpac despite serving since 2006, and has also just stepped up as deputy chair of IAG. Previous gigs include Ridley Corp and Guild Insurance, and she was also chair of Australia's second biggest industry fund, Unisuper. 4. Linda Nicholls: former chair of Australia Post and was chair of Healthscope until a private equity takeover and now chairs Japara Health; chair of Yarra Trams in Victoria and also a director of Sigma Pharmaceutical, Medibank Private, Pacific Brands and Fairfax Media. Former director of St George Bank and Victoria's Transport Accident Commission. 6. Elizabeth Alexanderthe former PwC partner was a long-term chair of CSL and a former director of Amcor and Boral, where she chaired the audit committee; currently chairs Medibank Private and serves on Dexus funds management boards and is a past president of the AICD. 7. Jane Hemstritch: a former managing director of consulting giant Accenture in the Asia Pacific and joined the Commonwealth Bank board in 2006. Also sits on the boards of Santos, Lend Lease and Tabcorp. 8. Carolyn Hewson: former investment banker now sitting on the BHP Billiton and Stockland boards. Previous stints with a range of blue-chip boards, including BT Investment Management, Westpac, AMP, CSR and AGL. 9. Belinda Hutchinson: former Citibank and Macquarie Group executive who chaired QBE Insurance from 2010 until 2014. Formerly a director of Coles Myer, Crane, Telstra, Energy Australia, TAB Ltd and Sydney Water and has served on AGL board since 2010. Also currently chancellor of Sydney University. 10. Patricia Cross: a former NAB treasury boss who suffered a hit when forced to quit the AMP board in 2003, but came back with gigs at NAB, Qantas and Wesfarmers before she quit Wesfarmers in early 2010 after her husband Paul Meadows was appointed chief general counsel. Recently appointed to Macquarie Group board after finishing at NAB. 11. Irene Lee: former CEO of fund manager Sealcorp, executive director of Citibank and head of corporate finance at Commonwealth Bank who served on a range of Australian boards including QBE Insurance, ING Australia, Ten Network Holdings, Brisbane Airport, Record Investments and Beyond International. Now has an impressive Hong Kong-based portfolio including HSBC, China Light & Power, Noble Group and Cathay Pacific. 12. Helen Nugent: former Westpac strategy chief who spent 15 years on Macquarie Group board, including almost a decade chairing the remuneration committee before retiring in 2014. Current chair of VEDA and the $26 billion Funds SA, plus serves on the Origin board. 13. Dr Nora Scheinkestel: a banker with experience at CRA, Macquarie Bank, Chase AMP and Deutsche Bank, who now sits on the Orica, Telstra and Macquarie Atlas boards. Former director of Pacific Brands, Mayne Group, Mayne Pharma, North Ltd, Newcrest and PaperlinX. 14. Diane Smith-Gander: the leading Perth-based female director and was briefly the only female director of Wesfarmers. A former executive at Westpac who did a long stint as a partner at McKinsey. Joined Transfield Services in October 2010 and is now the chair. Also a former deputy chair of NBN Co. 15. Kate Spargo: a qualified lawyer, she is chair of UGL and a director of Fletcher Building and Sonic Healthcare. Previously served on IOOF, Transfield Services Infrastructure Fund, Pacific Hydro, Investec, Australian Unity and the Australian Energy Market Operator. 16. Christine O'Reilly: former Gasnet CEO who now sits on CSL, Transurban and Medibank Private boards. 17. Sam Mostyn: a former Insurance Australia Group and Optus senior executive who became the first woman commissioner of the AFL. Joined the Virgin Blue and Transurban boards in 2010 and more recently added Covermore and Mirvac. 18. Emma Stein: former UK managing director for French utility Gaz de France's energy retailing operations. Came to Australia in 2003 and serves on Transpacific, DUET Group, Alumina, Programmed Maintenance Group and Todd Corp. Former director of Transfield Services Infrastructure Fund and Clough Group. 19. Nicola Wakefield Evans: lawyer with strong Asian experience who returned to Australia and served on the Toll Holdings board from May 2011 until the recent Japan Post takeover. Also a director of Macquarie Group and Lend Lease. 20. Maxine Brenner: being married to Jodee Rich hasn't stopped a blue-chip board portfolio being assembled by this former corporate lawyer including Qantas, Orica and Origin. 21. Margaret Jackson: retired as Qantas chair in 2008 and also quit ANZ after almost 15 years. Had an unhappy experience chairing Billabong but did better chairing Flexigroup. Former director of Pacific Dunlop, BHP, Southcorp and Fairfax Media and now chair of Spotless. 22. Carolyn Kay: lawyer and former Morgan Stanley executive with experience in New York and London who now sits the Brambles, John Swire & Sons, Allens and Future Fund boards. A former director of Commonwealth Bank, Symbion Health, Mayne Group and Pacific Dunlop. 23. Sandra McPhee: former Qantas sales and marketing chief who sits on boards including AGL Energy, Fairfax Media and Kathmandu. Departed Coles due to the Wesfarmers takeover and Perpetual due to a conflict of interest with her husband's business. Other past gigs include Australia Post and Westfield Retail (now Scentre Group). 24. Diane Grady: American who came to Australia in 1979. Former McKinsey partner who became a professional director in 1994. Currently a director of Spotless and Macquarie Group. Formerly served on Woolworths, Goodman Group, Bluescope Steel, Lend Lease and Wattyl. Current chair of Ascham school and former president of Chief Executive Women group. 25. Anne Brennan: executive career included a stint as finance director of Coates Hire and previously held senior roles at CSR, KPMG, Ernst & Young and Arthur Andersen. In 2009 was appointed to the board of retailer Myer and also currently serves on Charter Hall, Nufarm and Argo boards. Previously sat on Echo Entertainment board.