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The 30% Club Australia launched in May 2015 with the primary objective of campaigning for 30 percent women on ASX 200 boards. As the decade ended, for the first time, women made 30 percent of board seats on the ASX 200 – evidence that meaningful change can be achieved through voluntary targets.

The challenge is to maintain momentum in encouraging greater numbers of businesses to achieve 30 percent as a minimum threshold rather than a target.

With the top of the ASX leading the way on gender diversity on boards, the 30% Club has expanded its focus to the ASX 300, advocating for 30 percent female directors by the end of 2021.

The themes identified in this report are drawn from publicly available information on gender diversity on ASX 300 boards, along with ASX 300 market capitalisation data dating back to 2015. Interviews were also conducted with 11 respected current board directors and chairs of ASX 200 companies.

Throughout the report we share seven key learnings on what the boards of ASX 201-300 businesses can do to increase gender representation and diversity more generally in non-executive directorships.

Presented in conjunction with 30% Club - Australian Chapter.

30% Club

Diversity in the ASX 300 is lagging

Board diversity in the ASX compared

The number of board seats held by women across the ASX, we can see that more work needs to be done in the ASX 300. While in the ASX 100, 31.8 percent of all seats are held by women, this drops down to 22 percent in the ASX 201-300. 

Board diversity in the ASX compared

Average female representation on ASX 201-299 boards by sector

A key sector of focus in the ASX 201-299 is materials. It has the strongest contribution of companies to the list, but with the second lowest average proportion of females on boards, only 10 percent. On the ASX 100, materials has 31 percent representation of females on boards, and in the ASX 200 there are 27 percent. 

The industries and information technology sectors in the ASX 300 have no female board members. 

Female representation on the ASX 201-200 by sector

 

 

Seven learnings from the ASX 200

 

 

Foreword

Alison Kitchen, Chairman, KPMG Australia

Alison Kitchen, Chairman, KPMG Australia

If boards ever needed the wakeup call that different voices, perspectives and experiences matter, they would have had it in spades these past few months. When you’re operating in an environment where there’s a huge number of unknowns – having a lot of different experience around the table is a very good thing. And that diversity of experience can help boards navigate the enormous challenges we are facing. 

Gender is one, and one very important lens to diversity. But this current period has highlighted to me that having different voices, different perspectives, different life experience and different business experience at the table – all asking open questions, being curious and sharing experiences is the key to surviving and thriving. The advantage a diverse board offers is the ability for companies to be agile, flexible, and to think quickly and differently. 

While much of the research in this report was done before the COVID-19 pandemic, its influence on how we should move forward cannot be ignored. The companies that I have seen survive and thrive through these challenges are ones that have been agile, more open to change and have made bold moves. Post the immediate pandemic effects, there will be even more risk for those who hesitate to be left behind. My hope is that this time of uncertainty will further emphasise the need to accelerate the push for diversity in thinking. 

There is still a deep-seated belief in some sectors that relevant industry experience is needed to be on a board. And while some industry experience on the board is necessary – it’s not the only capability that’s needed. Progressive boards look beyond just line experience and consider the unique skills and capabilities needed at their table and how they can complement the existing capabilities and skills.

We’ve collectively been through a short period of extreme change, and we’re moving into a long period where the environment is going to be difficult – so now, more than ever, companies will be looking for areas of competitive advantage, and to avoid anything that puts them at risk of being left behind. Companies will need better, more rounded, skills at the table to set themselves up with a chance to succeed. Now really is the time to double down on getting those new skills to the table. 

Melanie Willis,  Non-Executive Director, Chair Education Working Group, 30% Club

Melanie Willis, Non-Executive Director, Chair Education Working Group, 30% Club

The need for different voices and perspectives around the boardroom table has never been more apparent. Organisations need to respond with speed to a raft of challenges around increasing consumer expectations and emerging technologies and disruption as well as more recent challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Tomorrow’s successful companies will have a deep understanding of what their customers want now and into the future, be inspiring to their employees and help build communities. To realise this success, companies will need a greater level alignment between board, customer, employee and community representation. These successful companies will recognise that diversity is an important element of stronger, forward-thinking governance that is inextricably linked to strategy.

Although the ASX 200 reached the 30 percent target for women on boards at the end of 2019, the story further down the index is very different. In April this year, women held only 22 percent of board positions in the ASX 201-300 bracket. Though a quarter of businesses in that bracket had achieved the 30 percent target for female representation, more than half had only one female director or none at all. 

An objective of the 30% Club in 2020 is to focus on the ASX 300 to address this imbalance, and align with the updated ASX Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations (PDF, 2.1 MB) that states all listed boards should strive to have at least 30 percent female directors.

Our 2018 report looked at instituting diversity in the ASX 200. This report now considers the resources and structure of mid-market companies and has extracted relevant lessons from the ASX 200 that ASX 300 business leaders can draw from. 

This report demonstrates that when organisations take an intentional, explicit and strategic approach to diversity they can realise it’s many benefits, including as a key differentiator in market. It is hoped that the following findings can provide a framework to shape thinking around the issue of board gender diversity by Australia’s mid-cap companies looking to invest in building strong foundations for a successful future.

We believe this advice is particularly well timed. Companies will be engaging with a very different consumer as we emerge from the COVID-19 restrictions; looking in the rear-view mirror will not set companies up well to tackle tomorrow’s problems. 

What will remain unchanged however, are principles of good governance. Boards of the future will need to consist of individuals that offer a blend of corporate history and industry expertise with members that can envision possible futures and the opportunities that lie within them. Investors are increasingly relying on diversity in leadership as a key indicator of good governance, and consumers and our communities are coming to expect it. 

We have seen in the US recently the importance of equality in diverse communities more broadly. Companies’ success relies upon thriving communities where diversity and inclusion is actively embraced. Now more than ever we need directors on boards that can bring an outside-in lens to the table and challenge conventional thinking.

I would like to thank Alison Kitchen and the KPMG team for all their hard work and effort in preparing this important report. I’d also like to thank members of the Education Working Group for their consultation and input, members of the 30% Club Steering Committee, and the tireless commitment of Nicola Wakefield Evans as Chair of the Australian chapter of the 30% Club.

 

 

Contacts

Methodology

AICD provided KPMG with publicly available S&P/ASX 300 (ASX 300) information dating back to 2015 that detailed gender diversity on boards, along with ASX 300 market capitalisation data sourced by KPMG. KPMG define the ASX 300 as the ASX companies by market capitalisation at the end of April 2020 – with any yearly comparisons made in this report made on a like for like basis using the end of April. However analysis of market capitalisation trends are only up to September 2019 to remove the impact of share market declines due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

KPMG synthesised and analysed the data, producing a number of insights and hypotheses around board diversity across different levels of the ASX, across primary sectors and against market capitalisation movements since 2015.

Topic areas were developed by KPMG to be explored in greater depth during interviews with eleven current non-executive board directors and chairs from ASX 200 companies1. The purpose of these interviews was to examine these topics in detail to understand commonalities in attitudes, commitment, practices, values and wider experiences.

The interview selection criteria framework was developed by KPMG to ensure broad base coverage of different board compositions, industry sectors and company sizes2. The key criteria for interview selection was that the individual sat on multiple boards at different levels of the ASX 300, each with different gender compositions. This was due to their ability to compare and contrast their experiences and in particular what companies that feature in the ASX 300, but not in the ASX 200, could learn.

The eleven board director interviews were conducted by a highly experienced KPMG research director, from 10th to 25th February 2020.

The insights generated from the eleven interviews, supported by the data and information made available to KPMG have been brought together under seven overarching themes, which are examined in detail in this report.

Footnote:
1 & 2 - Profiles of the eleven board director interviews, alongside an overview of the board composition and industry sectors are detailed from page 17 in the report.