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  • Writer's pictureDavid Brine

ALBEI Q3 update on board diversity & data in Australia (August 2023)

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

It has been a little while since we connected with the ALBEI distribution list, many who have been integral to early discussions about broader diversity in the Australian boardrooms. We wanted to reconnect with you and share this Q3 update.


Through our recent discussions with many of you and research of listed companies there is a gap and underrepresentation for certain groups at the board level. It isn’t because the people aren’t there, it is unlikely that the people aren’t ‘board ready’ – there’s something more fundamental causing us to want to keep exploring.


Please read on for what has been happening and how you can help.


Inspiring leaders

Thanks so much to everyone who was able to join us at the intimate lunch with Dame Inga Beale recently. It was a unique opportunity to hear her stories about the male dominated insurance industry in London, her escape to Australia (cycling from Sydney to Darwin) and then to become Lloyds first female CEO in its 330 year history – truly inspiring leadership to ‘break the mold’.


Dame Inga is very much of the opinion that you need to be a role model and ‘pay it forward’ and she kindly agreed to the lunch during her whirlwind Sydney trip as “she likes to help people change the world”. She only had 3 days in Sydney due to board commitments back in Europe but she is keen to return again where we will definitely ask her to help host another dinner, as many of you were unable to attend. Watch out for our future events.


Sharing the good news

A number of you have been appointed onto some great boards over the last few months - congratulations to you, for your own inspiring expertise and leadership!

We’d love to be able to share these stories, as we know success stories and leading by example inspire future generations.


What we’ve been up to

For many of you this winter seems to be very much the escape to Europe post-COVID odyssey to catch up with friends, family and the European summer. The team at the Australia LGBTQ+ Board & Executive Inclusion (ALBEI) have been working behind the scenes on how to take this initiative forward. We are keen to get feedback from you and are planning events for alter this year.


In the meantime we have had progress on several themes:

  • Setting up a not-for-profit and making ALBEI a more structured and professional initiative;

  • Continuing to reach out to board search firms and LGBTQ+ directors to discuss how we take things forward;

  • Working with other LGBTQ+ organisations on diversity at the board level;

  • Discussions with investment decision makers like the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors on investment criteria regarding board diversity;

  • Continued research on board governance around diversity including potential legal advice on director’s duties around diversity and board composition;

  • Started to collaborate with colleagues at an international level who are doing similar initiatives in the US and Canada;

Contributed to the Governance Institute & Watermark Search Board Diversity Index Report for 2023 - https://www.watermarksearch.com.au/thought-leadership/2023-board-diversity-index.


What we’re hearing – the challenge

A constant theme from our discussions is that the usual networks that are accessed by Chairs and Nominations Committees for new directors are not necessarily the networks that LGBTQ+ people are easily included within - nor wish to be part of, in some instances.


There has also been some discussion about the collection and disclosure of data at the Board level. Woodside Energy is the only company in the ASX50 which discloses board composition at a detailed level including LGBTQ+, First Nations, cultural background etc. We believe more boards should be doing this and following their example.


It is sobering that in Australia 90% of directors on the ASX200 are of Anglo-Celtic background, we have roughly 12 LGBT directors, 4 First Nations directors and we have not been able to determine the number of disabled or people from lower socio economic backgrounds. We are not advocating targets for each under-represented group but we do need more inclusive board recruitment programs and more effort in reaching the pool of qualified people. Please refer to our ASX50 analysis in our Q2 2023 update attached.


And sharing the following from a recent report in the USA:

LGBTQ+ people are the missing piece in Deloitte’s “Missing Pieces.” Like every year, LGBTQ+ people are excluded from Deloitte’s State of Board Diversity, ironically titled "Missing Pieces". Deloitte's claim is a bit strange: "Due to inconsistent availability of data, [its] Missing Pieces report does not incorporate board representation for persons with disabilities or those who may identify as LGBTQIA+"”. It just feels lazy. First, a complete LGBTQ+ dataset is available through NASDAQ-listed company disclosures on Board Diversity. Secondly, the Association of LGBTQ+ Corporate Directors has published an annual list of LGBTQ+ people on Fortune 500 Boards for two years. And thirdly, "not incorporating board representation" information on LGBTQ+ people is a sure way to ensure the perpetuation of a lack of data. In 2023, discussing Board Diversity in the U.S. without mentioning LGBTQ+ diversity is ubuesque.

What you can do to help?

If you’re inspired and have ideas to move the situation forward in Australian boardrooms, please get in touch with one of us. We’re looking for people who have time and ideas to help with driving momentum on this topic.


Start having your own conversations with your leadership team or your network of peers. What more could you be doing to create the right environment for aspiring LGBTQ+ directors to see themselves getting exposure or successfully appointed to boards? We’ve added the ‘why’ which may help start your discussions.


If anyone is in NYC on 19 October there is an inaugural conference focused on LGBTQ+ board representation – find out more here, hosted by our colleagues at LGBTQ+ Corporate Directors in the USA. We’re keen for Australia to hear what’s happening in jurisdictions.


Please watch out for our events over the rest of the year. We are keen to build this network to improve diversity in boards in Australia.


 

Inspired to continue the discussion?

Interested in helping? You can contact us here to get in touch with the ALBEI team.

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