Set-back for gender diversity on boards

31 October 2019

2019 is set to be the worst year in a decade in terms of improving gender diversity on boards, according to Financy.

Financy’s Women’s Index found in the September quarter the pace of gender inequality had slowed due to a dip in female directorships on the ASX200 boards and the pace of progress in unpaid work was slow.

The index found women occupied 29.5% of the ASX200 boards compared to 29.7% in December 2008.

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Financy Women’s Index founder, Bianca Hartge-Hazelman, said: “Considering the focus in Corporate Australia on achieving board diversity, this is a very disappointing result and one that suggests that the next leap from 30% to 50% board diversity could really test the pace of progress”.

The index found the pace pf process towards board gender diversity was at 10%, and if this current momentum continued board equality could be achieved in 5.5 years.

In unpaid work, the average annual rate of progress was found to be 0.25% over the past seven years, meaning it could take nearly 200 years before gender equality was achieved, the index found.

However, the overall index measured a progress for women indicated by a 0.6 point rise in the index to 124.8 in the quarter, from a revised reading of 124.2 points in June.

“The September quarter gain was helped by record female full-time employment and a rise in the female participation rate as well as improvements in the gender pay gap and in superannuation,” she said.

For the year to September 2019, the index climbed 4.7 points compared to the 7.1 point gain in the 12 months to September 2018.

During the September quarter Australia’s gender pay gap fell to a low of 14.02% thanks to increased full-time workforce participation among women.

“But the problem is economic equality is looking more difficult to achieve in our, or even our daughters’, lifetimes, given significant variance in the pace of progress across many areas like unpaid and paid work,” Hartge-Hazelman said.

The index said it was likely to take between 20 to 37 years before gender equality was achieved in the Australian workforce, based on the average annual rates of progress across the participation rate, underemployment, and in full-time work.

However, Financy noted that women might not have to wait as long for equality in terms of superannuation savings with the current growth rate of 3.06% suggesting that it could be achieved in 10 years if the current pace persisted.

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