Larger role for women in Corporate Governance

Venkat Raman – Launa Inman 2

Despite their proven experience in management and corporate leadership, the role of women in governance is still not properly recognised and rewarded an expert has said.

According to Launa Inman, Director, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and former Chief Executive of Australian retail giant ‘Billabong’ and Managing Director of ‘Target,’ while many women are in leadership teams of companies, very few of them are promoted to the post of Managing Director or Chief Executive.

“Women have proved time and again that they can be good leaders and meet challenges, cope with stress and promote good corporate governance. Almost all of them have taken tough decisions that have benefited their respective countries and communities,” she said, citing former British, Israeli Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, and Golda Meir as examples of high profile leaders.

Quota System

Ms Inman was speaking to Indian Newslink after attending the conference of the Institute of Directors under the theme, ‘Leading Perfomers/Changing the Game’ at Langham Hotel in Auckland on April 21, 2015.

“The quota system is getting increasingly popular in Australia, New Zealand and many parts of the world. Some countries are also talking about allocating 50% of roles for women in government agencies and companies. Applying competence and other factors, there should be no difference between men and women occupying high offices in the public or private sector,” she said.

Western Experience

Some European countries impose quotas for the share of women on big firms’ boards. Germany is to join them: its main parties, negotiating a coalition after September 2013 election, agreed to require that supervisory boards be at least 30% female by 2016. Germany is a laggard when it comes to women on boards, though the numbers have been rising, as they have been in places such as Britain that have no quotas.

Russell Reynolds, a headhunting firm, finds that many of the new women on boards are young and are recruited from abroad. This suggests that qualified women are scarce. Therefore, Germany may also set targets for promoting women through the ranks of management.

Australian Scene

Ms Inman said that Australia has many career-driven women, keen to be involved as directors on boards of companies.

“However, the high appetite is not matched by adequate diversity. The challenge is to bring the skills, competence and expertise of our women to the boards. There are not many women Chief Executives in Australia and many do not replace women to fill vacancies. It must be acknowledged that several organisations have broken through the glass ceiling,” she said.

In its recent report, the Australian Human Rights Commission called for reforms to provide better opportunities for women in leadership roles.

Low percentage

“Currently, Australia accounts for the lowest percentage of women on boards when compared with New Zealand, USA, Canada and South Africa. In terms of Executive Key Management Staff Personnel, Australia has the lowest percentage when compared with UK, US, Canada and South Africa. The lag behind comparable nations is concerning,” the Report said.

According to Ms Inman, about 52% of all graduates in Australia are women and yet there is disparity in promoting women to leadership roles.

“I do not understand what the issue is or why we are allowing such inequality to exist. We need to fix targets (similar perhaps to quotas) and take steps to achieve them,” she said.

Kiwis no better

Although she lauded the initiatives taken in New Zealand to encourage women to be in governance roles, a Ministry of Women report said that women are under-represented in leadership roles in the country.

“A significant number of women with potential, drop out of the workforce, or stall below senior management and top leadership position. Their success is often measured by the numbers of women on state or private boards. All women need opportunity and encouragement to make the most of their skills and talents. We need to think about the next level of women leaders and broaden the pipeline of women leaders. We want to grow and develop our future pool of women leaders (aged 25 to 45) by encouraging them to take the next step in their careers and leadership roles,” it said.

Sir Anand Satyanand Lecture

These and other related issues will form the core of the Fifth Annual Indian Newslink Sir Anand Satyanand Lecture, due to be held from 630 pm on Monday, July 27, 2015 at Pullman Hotel in Auckland.

The central theme of this year’s Lecture is ‘The Role of Women in Governance.’

Westpac Chairperson Jan Dawson will be the Guest Speaker and BNZ Director Dr Susan Macken will be the Master of Ceremonies. The Lecture will also include ‘Insights’ by Media Works Chief Executive (Radio) Wendy Palmer and ‘Reflections’ by East Tamaki Healthcare Director Ranjna Patel.

Next Issue: Launa Inman on The Australian Challenge

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