Nobody sitting here will questions that there's whopping gender imbalance in today's boardrooms, despite ample evidence that it makes financial sense to put women on the board. The question is what we should do about the asymmetry. Should Australia take the lead from Norway, which mandated a 40 percent quota for female board participation in 2003? Or should we do like the United States—to leave the issue alone?
Of the nearly 1.1 million students at university 57% are women, making up 53% of all tertiary students in Australia. Women accounts for nearly 60% of all undergraduate students and 58% of postgraduates, but only few make it to the top of companies. Does that sound fair to you?
In 2002, the Equal Opportunity for Women in Workplace Agency conducted the first Australia census of women in leadership for companies listed on ASX 200. From 2002 to 2010, there is no substantial increase in female board representation, with the percentage of female directors consistently hovering around 8.5%. Although the latest percentage of women on ASX 200 boards is 15.5% on 4 March 2013 (the highest they have been in Australia), there is still a total of 49 boards do not have any women. Should we be satisfied with these numbers, or should 15.5% have already well represented all the talented and qualified women?
What we have to strength here is that the policy is not just about gender-neutral, but equal treatment to under –represented gender. Qualification still remains the key criteria for a job on board. If a female candidate who we defined as the under-represented gender for a board position is as well qualified as a male candidate (over-represented gender). The candidate of the under-represented gender must be given priority. This continues to be the case until the under-represented gender has reached 50% representation on the board.
Then you may wonder that why 50% is an acceptable figure. "There aren't too many corporate board seats that open up each year. We're…