Board Diversity or Gender Diversity? Perspectives from Europe, Australia and South Africa


  • Jean du Plessis Deakin University
  • Ingo Saenger University of Muenster
  • Richard Foster



Board diversity has been a hot topic for several years. However, it is only in recent years that pertinent questions have been asked about what is actually meant by board diversity and what would constitute a board with an ideal diversity. In the past the debate on board diversity has always been dominated by the lack, or very low numbers, of females on boards. This has been a fact in most countries with sophisticated corporate law and corporate governance systems in place. The issue of female representation on boards still dominates the board diversity debate, but other forms of diversity, including age, cultural, nationality and race have also become part of the debate. The quest is to find answers to questions like whether a diversified board would be better, and whether diversified boards will ensure a better return for investors; in other words, whether there is a ‘business case’ to be made out to have diversity on a board. Many studies have been done, but the answer is still evasive. This is not totally unexpected as the criteria used for these studies differ and the circumstances and complexities of business are such that a final conclusion will probably never be reached. In this article we focus on the board diversity debate in Europe, Australia and South Africa – three completely different parts of the world. In addition we devote Part V to put the topic of board diversity in a broader context, but paying particular attention to gender diversity.