ONE of WA’s highest-profile business leaders wants gender diversity quotas on company boards unless more women are appointed within the next few years.
Diane Smith-Gander, a former chairman of ASX-listed services giant Broadspectrum and a current director of Wesfarmers, said she was becoming increasingly fed up with the “glacial” pace of change in recruiting more women to leadership roles.
Ms Smith-Gander, who is also a non-executive director with lobby group Chief Executive Women, suggested the time was approaching for State and Federal governments to intervene.
“With every year that goes past and the rate of change continues to be glacial, I get more hardened in my view that quotas are necessary,” Ms Smith-Gander said.
“It’s great that we’ve got ‘if not, why not’ rules, and we’ve got disclosures in ASX reporting and we’ve got a workplace gender equality agency.
“But if we really wanted to move this fast we would go ‘we’ve got three years, this is the target, if we don’t get to the target it’s time for a quota’. I think it’s time for that sort of leadership.”
Her comments came after the release of a report last week showing that fewer than one in 10 directorships for the top ASX-listed WA companies was occupied by a woman.
The report, commissioned by the University of WA and think tank Committee for Perth, showed just 47 out of 539 directors in “WA ASX 100”companies were women.
Ms Smith-Gander said the results were “disappointing but it’s not any way surprising” because of the heavy presence of male-dominated industries such as mining and agriculture in WA.
She said the imbalance was leading to a perverse situation where WA-raised women were moving to the Eastern States or overseas to further their careers at the expense of the local economy.
“So we need to use all the talent we’ve got to increase female workforce participation — get women out of being just the second income, the part-time role, to use all of that talent that we’ve got,” she said.
“It’s an economic imperative, not just a social justice imperative.”