Could a quota system for publicly listed Australian companies assist progress towards gender equality for directors on boards? A study of principles, legislation, policies and practices
Worldwide, significant progress towards gender equality and the rights of women have been achieved in many jurisdictions. Today, the merits of gender equality in the composition of director membership on public, private and government boards are clear. In Australia, progress continues towards gender equality on publicly listed company boards. However, although female participation has increased, gender disparities remain. There is an unacceptably low representation of women in non-executive board roles (now close to 30 per cent on listed companies in the Australian Securities Exchange 200) despite the high level of awareness—and accepted need—of redressing this imbalance. A research gap exists relating to how Australia can address this imbalance and progress to achieving board gender equality in publicly listed companies. To help us understand Australia’s options for future development, international case studies can provide a comparative context—specifically, Norway, which had introduced legislation for mandatory quotas for gender equality on boards in 2003. This research gap has prompted the research question that underpins this study: ‘Could the introduction of a quota system for publicly listed Australian companies assist progress towards gender equality for directors on boards? A study of principles, legislation, policies and practices’. This study’s methodology combines doctrinal and socio-legal research approaches. Situated in Australian domestic law, governance and policies, it is framed by the nation’s gender equality obligations under international law, such as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.