Lack of executive experience blocks women from board positions

15 May 2019

Women are being held back from joining ASX 200 board due to a lack of experience in an executive role, according to the 30% Club and EY.

The 30% Club was a global campaign to ensure a better gender balance on boards, ASX 200 companies in Australia have an average of 29.5 per cent women on their board. 

The joint report from the organisations surveyed men and women who joined their first ASX 200 board last year as well as chairs who appointed them and search consultants.

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In 2018, 113 people joined ASX 200 boards for the first time as non-executive directors, out of a total 185 appointed.

However, an ASX 200 board was unlikely to be a boardmember’s first position; only 25 per cent of men and 12 per cent of women started their boardroom career at an ASX 200 firm. Instead, they began at a government department, not-for-profit or smaller listed company.

The consensus among respondents was that an executive career developed the technical skills, reputation and commercial exposure that added value to a board.

However, a lack of senior executive experience was a problem for women who particularly lacked responsibility for P&L functions and the report also noted women needed to work harder on their networking and profile building.

Boards said they expected to see education and development, company research and networking by candidates to prepare for the role and they expected directors monitored market trends and engaged in professional development.

EY Oceania chief executive and managing partner, Tony Johnson, said: “While the research tells us executive experience is desirable, the broader challenge is a lack of representation from female leaders at this level who are developing the operational and technical skills preparing them for board positions.

“To encourage more board diversity, organisations need to do more to increase growth at all stages of women’s careers by creating pathways to senior management roles that are not necessarily the traditional linear career paths.”

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