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Women still face challenges getting onto boards: report

2 min read

Respondents indicated that the recruitment process of boards predominantly is inequitable as it lacks transparency, clearly defined and realistic criteria and is advertised to a selective group.

The 317 participants painted a specific picture of who they felt the ideal board candidate typically is. Women identified constraints extended beyond gender and into fields of age, experience, contacts, location (urban not rural) and not being an immigrant or refugee.

Respondents felt that when applying for board positions they were judged against discriminatory criteria, and attitudes that made their achievements and experiences seem unimportant and un-transferable.

Difficulties women are experiencing in attaining board positions include:

  • Access to information about board positions and vacancies.
  • Lack of availability of positions.
  • Not having access to male dominated networks, not being in relevant networks and/or not having effective networking results thus not being seen, recommended, approached or aware of board positions.
  • Closed shop mentality of boards in whom they hire, the type of experience they are looking for, discriminatory perceptions of women and their caring responsibilities; ageism, attitudes about rural regions and racism.
  • Lack of time, finance and confidence to seek and apply board positions.

What do women want?

Women surveyed stated that they want to join boards to empower the organisation and to empower themselves.

Women want workplaces to support them by believing in their capabilities, providing board and management experiences to develop leadership skills and knowledge and recognise that opportunities for board involvement are beneficial not only to women’s professional development, but also to the workplace.

Women identified a desire for a marked change in workplace culture in order to make board positions more accessible. Suggestions included more transparent selection criteria, proactive networking events to strengthen women’s positions, funding assistance and work-life balance support.

Further to this aim, a number of government-sourced initiatives were suggested.

Women said the Australian Government could:

  • Set the example with having more women on public boards and set incentives for private boards to follow
  • Ensure gender equality, equity and diversity on boards by making boards accountable
  • Provide specific assistance of funding, mentoring, training, networking, developing effective registers
  • Put in place quotas for gender balance on boards.
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