(Image: AAP/Joel Carrett)

First the good news: there are now more women than men on some of the boards of Australia’s largest companies.

In the 12 months to the end of February, Australia’s top ASX-listed companies appointed 215 directors, of whom 49% were female. It is commendable that Australia has close to equality in such an important area as company governance.

To have a “career” as a non-executive director, it appears females have the advantage. There are only 29 non-executive directors on four or more boards and a staggering 72% are women. There are 128 non-executive directors on three or more boards — 55% are women.

Now for the not-so-good news: for the top 300 listed companies, there are 2057 directors, of whom only 31% are women. There are 1709 non-executive directors, of whom 36% are female.

Australia needs to work on female participation on boards as executive directors. This is where the real power often lies with those who own or work in the company.

There are 348 executive directors, of which an embarrassingly low 9% are female. Another area of concern is board chairs where only 10% are female.

Women are making progress, increasing their numbers on boards and being taken seriously as company directors. But there’s work to be done to get women into the serious power roles of board chairs and as executives of major companies.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey