Firms desensitised to gender diversity issue

Australian firms are at risk of stalling as they are becoming desensitised to the issue of gender diversity, according to AMP Capital.

AMP Capital corporate governance manager, Karin Halliday, said despite the many benefits of gender diversity, there were an even greater number of reasons, biases, and excuses holding the country back from addressing it fully.

"One problem is we've been talking about gender diversity for so long that we're becoming dulled to the issue," Halliday said.

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"In Australia, you are less likely to be appointed chief executive or chairman of a company if you are a woman than if you are a man named Peter, and that has to change."

AMP Capital's latest gender diversity report found there was a positive correlation between a company's governance quality and the number of women directors.

The report found that companies with better gender diversity had:

  • Far fewer issues relating to related party transactions;
  • Half the number of concerns around board compositions including better independence; and
  • Better remuneration in terms of quantum, structure, and disclosure.

"Many male directors tell us that women directors tend to put greater preparation into their attendance at board meetings and after seeing this some men report they are now also reading the papers in more detail," Halliday said.

"It has also been mentioned that meetings go longer when women are present; the more diverse the opinions and perspectives represented around the board table, the longer and more robust the discussions, which is pleasing to hear as an investor.

"Boards are also becoming true meritocracies as the white males who have traditionally occupied the majority of board seats now need to compete for roles by proving they are the best person for the job."

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