One of Australia’s top company directors is warning that quotas might be needed to get more women into Australian corporate boardrooms.
Elizabeth Proust, who was today appointed chairman of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD), has set 2018 as the deadline for 30 per cent of board positions in the nation’s top 200 companies to be filled by women.
Ms Proust – well known in corporate Australia as the chairman of Bank of Melbourne and Nestle Australia – said quotas could be justified to force male-dominated boards to change with the times.
“Until recently, the policy of the AICD has not been to support quotas, but we’ve softened that in recent times to say if we don’t meet our target of 30 per cent by 2019 that everything will be on the table, including quotas,” Ms Proust told the ABC’s AM program.
“The message to companies is that if they don’t act then it’s likely to be government legislation which will mandate it and they’ll have to do it.
“It’s always better to do these things of your own volition rather than having it forced on you by government.”
Ms Proust, who in the past has opposed quotas, admits the sluggish pace of change in corporate Australia has forced her to take a more aggressive stance.
“When I started my career all those years ago, I suspect the thought of having this conversation would be a sad event,” Ms Proust told AM.
“I thought we would have made much more progress, but there are still boards I’ve been on where I’ve been the only women and in some cases boards with no women at all.”
Ms Proust’s comments add to criticisms that while most listed companies have policies on boardroom diversity, some are yet to take them “off the shelf” and put them into action.
Last month, the Federal Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency warned that many company bosses still fail to implement policies on pay equality and family friendly work patterns.
The agency said that, in addition to taking home a smaller pay packet, women who break through the glass ceiling into management are not getting the part-time work opportunities they might have fought for in the past.
In addition to her chairman roles, Elizabeth Proust has held senior corporate and government positions at ANZ Bank, BP, the City of Melbourne and is a former secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet in Victoria.