Our view at Slade Group is that a 33% quota on boards would be a great start. Why? It’s the maths. Let’s start by reconfirming that approximately equal numbers of men and women graduate with qualifications in Accounting, Law, Commerce and MBAs, which are the most likely professions from which Company Directors are drawn.

Continuing trend data shows that when women go on to have children, around one third remain full-time in the paid workforce; around one third take a more flexible approach to paid employment – part-time, contract, self-employed and consulting; and one third become full-time home makers.

We can figure out that of women over 40 years of age (the most likely age at which to be nominated for a board position) two-thirds (or 35 of this share of 50 women) should be able to be considered for board positions.

Our equation continues like this: if 35 of every 100 employees over the age of 40 are female, then doesn’t it follow that we’ve come to a very rational approach to quotas of 33%.

And why quotas? Because it’s a universal truth that change is resisted most by those with most to lose. In this case it’s the top end of town whose lives are easier if the status quo doesn’t change. By that we’re inferring that maybe language, culture, rules of the game, networks and tradition may have to give way to a new way of working.

According to Tim Hall at Blackhall & Pearl, the debate about diversity is at an inflection point and he’s provided some interesting facts about gender on company boards.


Amongst the ASX 200 currently there are about 16% female directors. Female directors in Australia get paid more than male directors on average, because there are fewer of them and they are concentrated in large companies which pay more. Across Super funds in Australia female directorships are greater than 22%.

Western democracies

In Canada there are about 13% female directors across the TSX.

In the US across Fortune 500 companies female directors compose 15% and across FTSE 350, 14.6%.

The UK has a target of 25% of FTSE 250 by 2015; currently it is 17.5%.

France does have a 40% gender legislation by 2016:

  • This applies to 40 large French firms only, or private firms with turnover greater than €50M in three consecutive years, or more than 500 employees
  • The reality in France is that females comprise 20% only on the CAC 40 (that’s only 40 companies)

Europe is often lauded as a leader in gender diversity issues

The truth is a little different:

  • Belgium 7.7% female directors
  • Germany 8.2% female directors
  • Italy 6.2% female directors
  • Netherlands 9.2% female directors
  • Norway, often heralded as a bastion of female equality, claims 32% female directorships on large boards and 36% on another study of large companies. Dig deeper and the numbers are based on 25 companies only.

You have a better chance of being a female director in the USA, UK, Canada or Australia at this point.

What’s your point of view?