Beyond 200: A study of gender diversity in ASX 201-500 companies
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Consulting

Beyond 200: A study of gender diversity in ASX 201-500 companies

While gender diversity on large-cap Australian boards is approaching the AICD’s goal of 30% female representation, small-cap boards are lagging.
Australian Institute of Company Directors and Heidrick & Struggles
Beyond 200: A study of gender diversity in ASX 201-500 companies

Over the past few years, there has been a particularly strong focus on the benefits gender diversity can bring to board performance. In April 2015, the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) set a target of 30% female representation on ASX 200 boards by the end of 2018. Research has shown that a board needs a minimum of 30% female representation to gain the full benefits of diversity, such as enhanced decision making, better governance, and improved financial performance. By June 30, 2018, female representation on ASX 200 boards had reached 27.9%. However, companies further down the ASX ranking are lagging. This study by the AICD and Heidrick & Struggles takes a step toward rectifying that by analyzing gender diversity on all boards in the ASX 201-500. The aim is to identify barriers that need to be overcome and highlight opportunities for improvement.

Following is a summary of the key findings:

  • On average, 15.8% of the directors on ASX 201-500 boards are female, well below the 27.9% found on ASX 200 boards. This figure falls from 17.1% in the ASX 201-300 to 15.8% in the ASX 301-400 to just 14.1% in the ASX 401-500.
  • Only 16% of ASX 201-500 companies have reached or surpassed the goal of 30% female representation on their boards, compared with 42% of companies in the ASX 200 that have done so.
  • Fully 38% of ASX 201-500 companies have no women on their boards, compared with only 2.5% of ASX 200 companies without any women directors.
  • The discrepancy between small- and large-cap boards is particularly marked in the traditionally male-dominated sectors of construction, electricity, gas, water and waste services, and mining. Females constitute just 10.3% of these boards in ASX 201-500 companies, compared with 24.1% in the ASX 200.
  • On average, small-cap companies have smaller boards (5.5 members) than do large-cap companies (7.5 members), with a narrower matrix of skills.
  • Approximately 10% of ASX 200 chairs also chair companies in the ASX 201-500. Where this crossover occurs, the percentage of women on the small-cap boards is 22.9%, markedly higher than the average of 15.8% for small-cap boards overall.
  • Newer companies tend to rate better in terms of gender diversity. Of the 83 companies that listed on the ASX in the past five years, 25.3% have 30% or more female representation on their boards, compared with only 13% for boards of companies that listed before 2013. There is also a lower proportion of all-male boards in companies that listed in the past five years—32.5%, versus 39.7% for boards of companies that listed before 2013.

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