Multiple Layers of Gender Diversity on Corporate Boards: To Force or Not to Force?

Jean du Plessis, James O'Sullivan, Ruth Rentschler


This article examines diversity on corporate boards, focussing on gender diversity and taking both contemporary and historical perspectives. Australia forms a particular focus of this article, but, as far as mandatory quota legislation is concerned, other jurisdictions provide comparisons. The authors illustrate how Australian corporate board gender diversity is starting from a low base in contrast to some other types of boards. Arguments for and against more women on boards are analysed in order to provide a comprehensive examination of extant research. The article also examines briefly whether a business case can be made for board gender diversity within the wider framework of board diversity. The authors acknowledge that there are unanswered questions about the right gender balance on boards and whether, without mandatory quota legislation, a voluntary system can achieve best practice targets. They explore the notion of critical mass - the idea that, upon board representation reaching approximately 15 per cent, efforts to further redress the imbalance may lose momentum. Their conclusion is that, in the Australian jurisdiction, progress is being made belatedly towards increasing gender diversity on corporate boards. However, substantial challenges are envisaged if significant progress is not made imminently to increase the number of women serving on corporate boards.


Corporations. Boards, gender Diversity, Female Board Members

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