26 September 2013
Sarah-Jane Tasker
MANDATORY targets for women on boards are having an effect, with research showing one in four new directors appointed last year were female.
The study, by the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, revealed that last year women broke the “100 in the 100″ barrier, with 105 women occupying 144 roles on the boards of Australia’s top 100 companies.
That result means that women hold just more than 18 per cent of all ASX 100 board seats — the highest level since ACSI began its survey 12 years ago.
But the best paid boardroom seats are still occupied by men, with Rio Tinto’s Jan du Plessis receiving $1.288 million and his counterpart at BHP Billiton, Jac Nasser, $1.154m.
Despite an increase in the number of women appointed to top 100 boards since 2008, the rate of appointments slowed last year, after a substantial increase in 2011.
The proportion of female directors serving on top 100 boards rose from 15.4 per cent to 15.9 per cent last year, and the percentage of top 100 board seats occupied by women rose from 17.7 per cent to 18.2 per cent.
ACSI chief executive Ann Byrne said it was encouraging to see the 2012 result but she added that it was a slow increase and that a lot of work had been done to achieve it.
“When you think of the requirements now under the ASX corporate governance guidelines for disclosure about the number of women and targets being set, plus the mentoring programs the Australian Institute of Company Directors has had in place for two years, clearly all this hard work needs to continue,” she said.
“It cannot stop; it needs to continue.”
The research showed that the increase in the number of women serving on top 100 company boards in recent years had yet to result in a substantial increase in representation in leadership roles.
Across the 132 executive directors in the top 100, the number of women was almost unchanged from 2011.
Of the five female executive directors in the 2012 sample, four were in the 2011 sample: Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly, Katie Page at Harvey Norman, Sydney Airport’s Kerrie Mather and Origin Energy executive director Karen Moses.
The 2012 board composition study, prepared by Ownership Matters, also found that seven top 100 companies in the sample still had no female directors, the same as in 2011. But it was still seen as an improvement on earlier years, given that in 2009 25 companies had no female directors and in 2010 21 companies had none.
The study also reviews non-executive director fees in Australia’s largest listed companies. Overall, the research showed that average fees paid to company chairmen in the ASX 100 had fallen by 3.5 per cent, as many leading company boards took a similar approach to executive pay.
There were two top 100 non-executive chairs who received fees of more than $1m: Rio Tinto’s Mr du Plessis and BHP’s Mr Nasser.
There was minimal evidence of sex-based discrimination in director fees, with the four non-executive chairwomen in office for a full year receiving average fees of $588,007, about 24 per cent higher than the $475,493 of the men.
The median and average fees for male and female top 100 directors were less than 1 per cent apart.