Board recruitment based on gender and friends

by 22 Sep 2009

Being the right gender and having the right friends make it easier to get a position on a board, a recent study has revealed.

The criteria boards are applying to fill their vacancies are predominantly underlined with biases and are unrealistic, the study showed.

The Women Getting into Boards Report, released by the Australian Centre for Leadership for Women (CLW), found that, when applying for a board position, women are judged against criteria which are discriminatory and met with attitudes which rate their achievements and experiences as unimportant and untransferable.

Based on a survey of 317 Australian women, some of the “ideal” characteristics to successfully win a board position are to be the right gender – male – have the right friends – such as corporate board members and high profile influential people – and be of the right age.

Respondents to the survey indicated that the recruitment process of boards predominantly is inequitable because it lacks transparency, clearly defined and realistic criteria and is advertised only to a selective group.

Commenting on the report, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said: “As I have said in the past, the number of women on company boards in this country is significantly behind that of other countries such as the US, UK, South Africa, Canada and New Zealand – a statistic that highlights the difficulties faced by Australian women who wish to climb the corporate ladder here.

“This report, which looks at the difficulties women face in getting onto boards in the first place, reinforces the additional barriers that women face in the corporate world in Australia.”

Broderick said that government intervention is required if changes are to be made.

“The report calls for government to set the example by having more women on public boards and setting incentives for private boards to follow suit, including making boards more accountable for outcomes achieved and putting in place quotas for gender balance,” she said.

“We need to seriously consider all these options if we are to finally make real progress.”

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