The Australian Institute of Company Directors today announced a new scholarship program aimed at helping to lift the representation of women on Australian boards.
Assisted by $200,000 in funding from the Australian Government, the program is intended to be a practical way to help achieve greater diversity on boards by providing talented women with the knowledge they need to help them secure private sector and public sector directorships.
Over 70 scholarships will be awarded to high performing board-ready women over the next two financial years, giving them the opportunity to attend for free the Australian Institute of Company Directors' highly regarded Company Directors Course or Mastering the Boardroom course.
They will also receive free membership of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, giving them access to a wide range of information and services, which will assist them to achieve their aim of securing a board position.
The scholarship program is the latest measure in a wider initiative by the Australian Institute of Company Directors to address the issue of board diversity, announced in November last year.
That initiative also includes the ASX 200 Chairmen's Mentoring Program, which involves 56 chairmen and senior directors of major companies working with 63 highly talented and qualified women in a 12-month mentoring relationship.
"Diversity is a competitive advantage bringing real value for businesses and we believe we should take a leadership role by introducing these sorts of programs to help increase the pool of women available for board positions," said Australian Institute of Company Directors Chief Executive Officer, John Colvin.
"Our courses are recognised as world class, providing top quality governance education to directors and aspiring directors with a diverse range of experience.
"We hope that providing scholarships to allow talented women to take advantage of these courses will play a vital role in achieving our aim of encouraging greater diversity on Australian boards."
Candidates for the scholarship program will be selected by a committee of representatives of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Australian Government Office for Women.
The scholarships will be offered to suitably qualified women from various backgrounds and from all around Australia, including regional areas.
Up-to-date figures compiled by the Australian Institute of Company Directors from ASX data show the number of women being appointed to ASX 200 boards has already increased significantly this year, lifting the proportion of female board members in Australia's top listed companies from 8.3 per cent at the beginning of this year to 9.5 per cent today.
So far in 2010, 25 per cent of all ASX 200 board appointees were female, compared to just five per cent in 2009 and eight per cent in 2007 and 2008. In the first seven months of this year, 28 women have been appointed to ASX 200 boards, compared to only 10 for the whole of 2009.
"As our figures show, real progress is already being made but more needs to be done," Mr Colvin said.
"We hope that over time, initiatives like this new scholarship program and the ASX 200 Chairmen's Mentoring Program will contribute to lifting the number of women on our boards even more.
"However, the success of these programs should not be measured in terms of immediate gains in the statistics. While we are optimistic, it may take some time for gains to be seen."
"At the end of the day, whether the women participating in our scholarship program obtain a board appointment is not directly within our control, but we hope that it will be extremely valuable and help them to achieve their goals."
Steve Burrell, General Manager Communications and Public Affairs, 0407 708 485
Further information and lodging an application on the
The Australian Institute of Company Directors provides education, information and advocacy for company directors Australia wide, with offices in each state to cater for 26,700 members. Our members work in diverse corporations such as small-to-medium enterprises, the ASX200 corporations, public sector organisations, not-for-profit companies, large private companies and smaller private family concerns.