Home' Connexus : Issue 45 Contents the gender balance of the broader
community, men hold about 80 per cent
of directorships industry-wide. A count
last year revealed that 19 customer-
owned banking organisations had no
Many organisations approach
diversity as a compliance issue rather
than a business issue, says Ruth Medd,
chair of Women on Boards, which
partners with organisations to boost
She says Australia’s best companies set
clear targets to boost diversity in senior
ranks and, once achieved, reset them.
"There is a need for rigorous,
measurable objectives if the diversity
dividend is to be achieved."
Setting vague objectives such as
"increasing the number of women in
leadership roles over time" give little
comfort that a company knows how to tap
into the benefts greater diversity could
offer, says Medd.
"I wonder if such companies would
countenance a proft target of ‘increased
EBIT’ as their fnancial objective for a
Dr Vince Cable, the British secretary
of state for business, innovation and
skills, also urges companies to set and
achieve measurable targets.
Companies listed on the FTSE100 index
have increased female representation on
their boards from 12.5 to more than 20
per cent in the past three years and are
on track to reach 25 per cent by 2015.
Cable has now challenged smaller
companies listed on the FTSE350 to
appoint one additional female director
during 2014 and consider giving
two female candidates from senior
management the opportunity to
ser ve as non-executive directors at
He says companies should set clear
targets for numbers of women at senior
management and board level, and
document the steps they are taking to
achieve those targets.
In 2010 the Australian government
established targets to increase women’s
representation on government boards to
a minimum of 40 per cent. The goal was
achieved with an increase of 7.2 per cent
within three years.
Setting an example
Beyond Bank chair Anne O’Donnell
says targets could help the sector -- and
Australia’s broader business community
-- increase female representation on
Beyond Bank, which was launched in
August last year, is one of the sector’s
largest players with assets under
management of over $4 billion, 195,000
customers, 49 branches, 600 staff and
access to over 3,000 rediATMs. It was
created from the former CPS Australia
credit union and its subsidiaries, Wagga
Mutual, Companion Credit Union and
United Community Credit Union.
The gender mix of its board, with
women in the majority, is a rarity. While
boardroom equality has been achieved
without for mal targets, the board of the
former credit union was innovative and
strategic in its approach to attracting
"Directors were committed to skills-
based, merit-based selection and in 2004
took the unusual step of advertising
for directors. I was one of two women
appointed,” says O’Donnell.
She gained her frst boardroom
experience as a staff-appointed director
of the ANZ Superannuation Fund
when she worked at the bank. She was
CEO of funds management company
Australian Ethical Investments when she
responded to the CPS call, and she was
deputy chair of the CPS board as the
former credit union worked through the
transition to becoming a mutual bank.
O’Donnell now dedicates herself full-
time to a portfolio of directorships. She
is also a director of Equity Trustees
Limited and the Winston Churchill
Memorial Trust, and a member of
the national board of the Australian
Institute of Company Directors.
She counsels people considering
directorships to not only calculate the
make it onto
highly quali ed, experienced
individuals who are not afraid
to ask the hard questions.
Anne O'Donnell, Chair, Beyond Bank
'Fearless and forthright' is the motto
of Berrima District Credit Union's
Chair Kristina Freire says it is a place
where the equal numbers of male
and female directors are encouraged
to ask di cult questions and openly
express their opinions. BDCU -- where
Jan Edwards is one of the sector's
longest-serving female CEOs -- didn't
actively seek a boardroom gender
balance, says Freire.
"I think we achieved it because we
are genuinely open to diversity."
Freire believes pursuing gender
diversity for its own sake in any
boardroom would be pointless unless
directors were open to challenge and
new ways of thinking.
"Diversity of skills, experience
and background, as well as gender,
can become the most valuable
asset on any board. It increases
corporate performance and fosters an
environment where everyone is willing
to contribute to discussion," she says.
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