Women on Corporate Boards of Directors
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Women on Corporate Boards of Directors

International Research and Practice

Edited by Susan Vinnicombe, Val Singh, Ronald J. Burke, Diana Bilimoria and Morten Huse

This important new book addresses the growing international interest in women on corporate boards of directors.
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Chapter 6: ‘Glacial at Best’: Women’s Progress on Corporate Boards in Australia

Anne Ross-Smith and Jane Bridge


Anne Ross-Smith and Jane Bridge INTRODUCTION The Sydney Opera House Opera Theatre with a seating capacity of 1500 holds approximately the same number of seats in ASX 200 boardrooms. Female directors wouldn’t even fill the first five rows. (McPhee, 2006) In the quote above from a speech delivered at the 2006 launch of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) ‘Australian census of women and leadership’, Director Anna McPhee referred to the pace of women’s advancement into corporate leadership positions as ‘glacial’. Glacial is defined as ‘moving or advancing extremely slowly’ (Encarta, 2007). The EOWA (2006) census revealed an increase in the percentage of board positions held by women in the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) top 200 from 8.2 per cent in 2002 when the first census was undertaken, to 8.7 per cent in 2006. This increase of a mere 0.5 per cent in four years shows that the analogy is clearly apt. In this chapter we review the status of women’s representation on corporate boards in Australia. The focus of our analysis is on the top 200 boards of publicly listed companies – the ASX 200. We start by explaining the structure of corporate Australia and providing some background data on women in the Australian workforce and in management. We discuss the past and present position of women board directors including their differential representation in executive and non-executive director roles. We then discuss the implications of the relatively static numbers of women in the Chief...

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