Board games: Is a cosy directors' club a risk to corporate Australia?

www.smh.com.au
7 min read
fairly difficult
A small group of powerful men, and increasingly women, dominate the boards of Australia's biggest companies. And some fear the group is too small.
Save Log in , register or subscribe to save articles for later. Normal text size Larger text size Very large text size Power shifts, flows and recombines and nowhere more so than inside Australia's corporate boardrooms. As millions of retail shareholders prepare for the annual general meeting season, which kicks off in earnest next month, the spotlight will soon be on the performance of the non-executive directors at the very top of the nation's biggest companies who wield enormous influence over the economy and society. Australia's boardrooms have often been criticised for lacking diversity and being filled with the same grey-haired men and to a lesser extent, women. According to this critique, the lack of diversity contributes to weak scrutiny of management teams and poor decision-making. Some even claim it's a factor behind some of the biggest scandals that have rocked corporate Australia in recent years, most notably the problems at troubled casino giant Crown. For Nicola Wakefield Evans, one of Australia's most prominent female directors, the notion that Australian boards are not doing enough on diversity is a "myth", and the pressure from shareholder and other advocacy groups to appoint more people from different backgrounds is beginning to bear fruit. "We're getting a lot of women but also men who are being appointed to their first big ASX role," she says. Analysis from Chief Executive Women and the Australian Institute of Company Directors shows progress on gender diversity has been made. For the first time, every company in the ASX 200 index now has at least one woman director. Female representation on boards in Australia has climbed to 33.7 per cent up from 8.3 per cent in 2009, and above the United States at 29.9 per cent. Whether this progress is enough will continue to be debated. But one undeniable and ongoing problem within Australia's director class has been exposed during the pandemic. Many of our top directors are over committed, with too many…
Anne Hyland
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