Thirty-one of the top 200 Australian companies have no or basic gender diversity policy.

By Cameron Jewell

26 September 2013 — Real estate companies fared better than most in the Women on Boards Traffic Light Index launched today [Thursday September 26].

In general, though, only eight per cent of ASX200 companies have adequate gender diversity policies, the survey revealed.

“While ASX200 companies significantly improved their reporting on gender balance in 2013, better performance is still eluding many,” said Women on Boards chair and report author Ruth Medd at the launch of the report in Sydney.

“Unfortunately 15.5 per cent (31 companies) rated red meaning they show little or no compliance at all with basic gender diversity principles, while 29.5 per cent (59) rated only slightly higher at 2.1, the bottom of the Amber category.”

The real estate industry fared better than most, with Mirvac, Stockland, Commonwealth Property Office and CFS Retail Property among the 16 companies receiving a “green light”, given to companies leading gender diversity performance and reporting in Australia.

The materials sector, however, was disproportionately featured in the “red light” category, meaning these companies showed “little or no compliance at all with basic gender diversity principles”, said Ms Medd.

Real Estate organisations in the red light category were Fleetwood and Shopping Centres Australia Property Group.

Companies in the middle “amber” section – for companies with a moderate level of compliance with gender diversity principles – included Australand, Lend Lease, DEXUS, GPT, Investa and Westfield.

The report, like Consult Australia’s gender diversity report covered by The Fifth Estate yesterday, found that progress was happening at a glacial pace.

Of the “green” rated companies making improvements, the number of females in their leadership ranks increased by just two per cent from last year.

“We cannot keep ignoring the stark reality that in corporate Australia in 2013 women still receive lower pay, fewer board seats and fewer senior executive roles,” Ms Medd said.

“Whether it stems from an unconscious bias, traditional work cultures or simple ignorance companies cannot continue in this vein. This is why we encourage the companies that are falling short in their gender diversity compliance and recognise those making real progress by publicly naming them alongside their ranking.”

Executive director of Women on Boards Claire Braund said there a number of factors that needed attention.

“Firstly companies need to understand where they are with effective and transparent gender data sets then set rigorous measurable objectives to improve and pay attention to deliverables like reducing the gender pay gap and appreciating flexible working,” she said.

Sources The Fifth Estate has spoken to in the property industry say that while the results look good for the property industry, there are many women in its ranks concerned about ingrained biases. The Fifth Estate will soon follow up the report by interviewing key industry figures on and off the record regarding what is really happening behind the boardroom doors, what progress is being made and what needs to be done to ensure adequate representation of women in the industry.

A full copy of the Guidelines and a comprehensive summary of the Traffic Light Index are available at www.womenonboards.org.au