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Female board representation falling in Australia

ASX200 companies TPG Telecom, Pro Medicus, NRW Holdings, Silver Lake Resources, Hub24 and Speedcast still don’t have a single woman on their board of directors.

The percentage of women on the boards of Australia’s largest companies is falling rather than rising, with six ASX200 companies still operating with all-male boards.

Women made up 29.5 per cent of the directors at ASX200 companies at September 30, down from 29.7 per cent three months earlier, according to the Australian Institute of Company Directors’ Gender Diversity Quarterly Report.

The decline comes after women were appointed to just 31.7 per cent of new board seats so far this year, compared to 45 per cent in 2018.

In contrast to the US, where the last S&P500 company – a used car seller – without a female board member added one in July, there are still a number of Australian companies without female representation on their boards.

The report released on Thursday listed seven, but one of them, Melbourne wound care company PolyNovo, appointed Robyn Elliot to its board on Monday.

Dr Elliott is currently the senior director for strategic expansion projects at CSL Behring and has more than 30 years experience at global organisations, PolyNovo said.

The other ASX200 companies without women on their boards are consumer internet company TPG Telecom; radiology software company Pro Medicus; civil infrastructure and mining contractor NRW Holdings; goldminer Silver Lake Resources; investment and superannuation platform platform HUB24; and satellite communications provider Speedcast International.

HUB24 chairman Bruce Higgins said the company’s board would be adding its first female non-executive director in the next few weeks, a woman with expertise in compliance and risk management.

“HUB24 treats diversity as a major competitive advantage. We are leaders in cultural, ethnic and gender diversity within our overall workforce,” he said.

NRW Holdings company secretary Kim Hyman said the company several months ago began the process of addressing gender diversity on its board and was using an external advisor to coordinate the process.

“It is a process that needs to be carefully considered by all parties including potential aspirants,” Mr Hyman said, but the company hopes to make an announcement before the end of the year.

Silver Lake Resources, TPG, Speedcast and Pro Medicus did not return emails.

Speedcast was left without a woman director after Waterloo Investment Holdings chief executive Caroline van Scheltinga retired from the board in August after serving for 16 months.

TPG acknowledged in its most recent sustainability report that it had no female director on its board, “and this presents a source of consternation for shareholders who seek companies with Board level gender diversity”.

But TPG said its planned merger with Vodafone Hutchison Australia would be a catalyst for an overhaul of the board, “as part of which diversity will be an important consideration,” so it had no immediate plan to change the composition of its board.

Forty-six ASX200 companies had just one women director, and only 14 had female board representation of 50 per cent or more as of September 30, the report found.

“Boards struggling with gender diversity must challenge themselves and make commitments to do better,” AICD chief executive Angus Armour said.

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Loren Webb

Loren Webb

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