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Q&A with Ruth Medd, Chair of Women on Boards

Q&A with Ruth Medd, Chair of Women on Boards

3 July 2012

 

Tell us about the Boardroom Diversity Index?

The BDI tracks the representation of women on the boards of 850 organisations across Australia on an annual basis. The data is current as of January 2012.

It is the only list in Australia that compiles information from a wide variety of sectors in a central location. The BDI was launched on International Women’s Day in March 2010 and is updated annually.

What sectors are the organisations in?

The index components were selected because of their economic and social importance. The scarcity of women directors is a key aspect of the wider economic disadvantage experienced by women in the Australian workforce. The sectors the BDi focuses on are:

  • ASX 1-300 Companies
  • Superannuation Trustees
  • Mutuals – Credit Unions and Building Societies
  • Private Health Insurance Funds
  • Federal Government boards
  • State Government Owned Corporations
  • National Sporting Organisations
  • Cooperative Research Centres
  • Research and Development Corporations

What are some of the interesting results from this year?

The reason for starting the BDI was to track progress of important sectors.  Prior to the BDI this information was not readily available.  Without data it is not possible to effectively advocate for change.

This year we have seen an increase in ASX200 female directors; attributable in large part to the requirements of the ASX Corporate Governance Principle 3 for reporting gender composition of boards and management in Annual Reports.  Also the Australian Government has made good progress. This could be attributable to their active adoption of a 40% target for women on government bodies by 2015.

While some progress has been made in the financial services sector, it is generally quite modest. Research & Development Corporations and Cooperative Research Centres sectors have both gone slightly backward. This should be of concern.

Why should women entrepreneurs be on boards?
Firstly they should be on their own boards.  Don’t undervalue the benefit of effective governance as an element of entrepreneurship.

Secondly women entrepreneurs will learn a lot from being on other boards.

And thirdly women entrepreneurs should have a lot to contribute to other boards; many of which are looking to understand the culture of innovation.

How can women use the BDI to their advantage?

  • Build your networks – the BDI publishes the names of the chairs and female directors of 850 organisations – one of the most useful lists around for an aspiring board director.
  • Consider those boards with no women and start a targeted campaign to be the first woman on their board.
  • Look at Australian government agencies and authorities as these boards are mandated to have 40% women on their boards – look to where there are gaps.
  • Explore credit union boards – election to credit union boards is via membership vote and nominees usually need to be an account holder to nominate. It’s an environment where qualified women should be able to compete on a relatively level playing field and gain useful experience to move into larger (including ASX) boards.

How can enptrereneurs find women to join their boards?

Women on Boards provides a free board and committee vacancy listing service. An email alert is sent to the WOB network of 14,500 women weekly.

This is an excellent opportunity for entrepreneurs to outreach to experienced female directors, senior corporate women and SME owners and operators.

 

About Women on Boards (WOB)
In existence since 2001 WOB is highly regarded for developing a network of 14,500 qualified and experienced women who aspire to board roles, linking them with current board vacancies and remaining connected with them throughout their career and director journey.

WOB has assisted more than 1,000 women gain board positions, either as professional non-executive directors or by combining directorship with their career roles.

WOB advocates for transparent reporting of gender diversity metrics, annually publishing the Boardroom Diversity Index that lists 850 organisations across Australia and the number of women on their boards. In 2012 WOB Australia inaugurated the Traffic Light Index, which evaluates the response of ASX200 companies to the revised Principle 3 of the ASX Corporate Governance Principles & Recommendations and more generally their progress in achieving a gender diverse workplace.

www.womenonboards.org.au

 

About Ruth Medd

Ruth has been pursuing a career as a non-executive director since 2000.  She is Chair of Australian Ethical Superannuation Ltd,  Executive Chair of WOB Pty Ltd (Women on Boards) and a director of the National Foundation for Australian Women.  She is a former director of The Infants Home Ashfield and the NSW Casino Control Authority.

Her NED experiences to date have enabled her to contribute her finance and business management expertise as well as her in depth understanding of the public policy, regulatory and business interface.  ? ?Prior executive roles include the Executive Director of the Australian Association of National Advertisers and senior positions with Telstra, the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal and the Federal government.

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