By chance, the business and shareholder communities are racked with dissension over the role of female directors at the same time the parliamentary arm of those communities, the Liberal Party, is engaged in one of its regular bouts on introspection about why it has so few female MPs.

AMP has been ground zero of the female director imbroglio, with various reactionaries using the resignation of Catherine Brenner and the departure (completed or pending) of three female directors as evidence that the emphasis on diversity on corporate boards was undermining governance and performance, was political correctness gone mad etc. Obviously, no one was drawing the same conclusion when white middle-aged men were presiding over the long string of corporate debacles in major companies in recent decades. Where were the women when HIH was collapsing, when James Hardie was ducking its responsibilities, when Babcock and Brown got found out by the financial crisis, when Commonwealth Financial Planning was ripping off customers, when our biggest miners were trashing billions in shareholder value? Or we could go back further to the 1980s, if you like. Strong correlation between incompetence and criminality and having a penis, no?

As writer Jane Caro has noted so well, women should have the right to be every bit as mediocre as men, because god knows there are plenty of mediocre male directors, and CEOs and other executives raking in the big bucks while doing little for, or undermining, the companies that employ them or appoint them to boards. As the AMP example demonstrates, however, perhaps female directors are more prepared to accept responsibility for poor performance than their male counterparts -- a habit that women will have to learn to shake if they're to match male directors.