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Webinar - A roadmap to greater board diversity

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Published on 20th September 2021

​Watermark Search International in partnership with the Governance Institute of Australia, held a webinar highlighting “A roadmap to greater board diversity”. The CEO of the Governance Institute, Megan Motto, chaired this important discussion and the panel comprised of Watermark Search International’s Managing Partner David Evans, Shirley Chowdhary and Jason Yat-sen Li.

Firstly, David discussed this year’s Board Diversity Index released by Watermark and the Governance Institute. Key points include:

  • Gender: The number of boards with at least 30% women has tripled, up to 161 in 2021 from 54 in 2016.

  • Culture: Australian boardrooms remain dominated by those of Anglo-Celtic and European ethnicity. Based on current trends, it will take 18 years for the boardroom to be reflective of Australia’s cultural diversity.

  • Education: The report found that women are studying harder to reach the boardroom, surpassing men in almost every category of qualifications.

  • Skills: There is a continued but marginal decline in dependence on accounting, financial and legal skills on a Board and a steady increase in the demand for technology skills.

  • Age: The average age of a director is about 60 years. Male directors on average are slightly older than female directors and there is a much higher proportion of women directors under 50 than men.

  • Tenure: Around 65% of directors and 70% of chairs have tenures less than 10 years. It is now very rare for a director to serve more than 14 years on the same board.

  • Independence: One in five directors are regarded as non-independent.

The panel then answered some very important questions around diversity including:

  • What can we do to open our eyes to unconscious bias and handle it in a more productive way?

  • How do we unpick what the culture looks like cascading through the rest of the organisation, not just the Board, so these unconscious biases are caught through structural rigour?

  • What are you seeing in the market in regards to organisations hiring diversely just to “tick a box” and how does this marry up with the culture of the organisation you are making a placement in?

  • How do you measure the hidden demographics that would speak to diversity?

  • What are some of the lessons that Chairs and other directors need to learn to check their own unconscious bias so that they are truly being inclusive in the boardroom and giving a genuine voice to the different perspectives that people bring to the table?

  • From a recruitment perspective, are you seeing Chairs look for different leadership qualities when looking for diversity?

  • What do candidates need to think about when going for a Board position?

  • What is the search industry doing to match up the fabulous, diverse talent out there and Boards?

  • Have you seen organisations create effective Board turnover? Trying to achieve Board diversity by waiting for people to retire will be a slow process. How do we encourage directors to act by stepping aside or making way especially when it is obvious the Board lacks diversity?

  • What is a piece of advice that listeners can take away to help move the dial on diversity?

You can watch the full recording of this webinar below:

Download the 2021 Board Diversity Index here.

by Watermark