Australia Proposes Gender Diversity Rules for Public Companies

(Bloomberg) -- Australian authorities are formulating plans that would force public companies to reveal the proportion of women at various levels of their organizations, as well as steps they’re taking to increase female representation.

ASX Ltd., which operates the country’s main stock exchange, wants businesses to formulate and disclose diversity policies, and also set representation targets for their boards, senior executives and total workforce in annual reports. Companies in the S&P/ASX 300 Index should have at least 30 percent of each gender represented on their boards, according to a draft consultation posted on the ASX website on Wednesday.

Australia Proposes Gender Diversity Rules for Public Companies

Among Australia’s 200 biggest public firms, women held 27 percent of board seats at the end of February, according to the Australian Institute of Company Directors’ gender diversity progress report, with 74 companies meeting the 30 percent target.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Susan Oliver, a member of the 30% Club steering committee, said by phone. “If we’re going to talk about some pervasive challenge to boards to think about diversity, you really need to extend it beyond the top 200 and 300 and move into all listed entities.”

Twenty-five percent of board members at the top 300 companies in Australia are women, a figure that drops “significantly” outside the index level, Oliver said.

Australia’s figures compare favorably with other developed markets in the Asia Pacific region. Only 14 percent of directors at companies in Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index are women, according to data from Community Business, a non-profit organization focused on inclusion in business. In Japan that figure is 3.7 percent, the data show.

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