Women should gain positions on company boards on merit…

Women should gain positions on company boards on merit, not through enforced quotas, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says. Mr Abbott said that, while he supported his colleague Joe Hockey's campaign to get more women on Australian company boards, he was "cool" on the idea of quotas. "Personally, I've always been cool on quotas," Mr Abbott told reporters in Melbourne today. Australia's Governor-General Quentin Bryce said this week she was open to the idea of quotas, while Mr Hockey, the federal shadow treasurer, said he would back enforced quotas to ensure women occupied 30 per cent of board positions. Advertisement --------------------------------------------------- Governer-General calls for female quotas --------------------------------------------------- "I think if women are given the chance to show their abilities they will get places on their merits," Mr Abbott said. "I think women can and should succeed on their merits and I think if we give them more opportunities to show their merits we'll see more success." ----------------------------------------------- Gender equality has limits in Norway ----------------------------------------------- Mr Abbott said more women on boards would be good for the economy and individual companies. He was speaking to reporters after addressing students at Strathcona Baptist Girls' Grammar School to mark International Women's Day. Read...

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Networking with a disability

Networking can be daunting for people with disabilities, but can be rewarding for when approached positively. Networking is a scary word. The prospect of entering a room full of strangers and having to make conversation can make anyone feel apprehensive. But for people with disabilities networking can be an even more daunting prospect – especially as it's important for jobseekers to focus on how they sell and present themselves. Reports indicate that disabled people are more likely to be unemployed, so it's more important than ever to try to overcome the challenges of networking.

I used to attend networking events and always assumed that people saw my disfigurement and didn't want to, or know how to, approach me. Overcoming this anxiety took a lot of confidence-building, patience and time.

My experience led me to consider other disabled people's fears of networking. I interviewed three graduates who said that their main worry was having their disability misunderstood and people not knowing how to react. They worried that they would feel embarrassed by their disability and that potential employers might not see them as employable. 

One marketing graduate, Rachel, knows too well the feeling of not being worthy. She has scarring from burns covering her right arm and neck, and is aware of the impact that her aesthetic disability might have in image-conscious industries such as advertising and PR. Rachel says: "Marketing is all about selling a brand or product, so you have to present yourself as you would the brand or product. At networking events I worry about whether the person I'm trying to make conversation with would want to buy into me. We're always told that you have to make a great first impression. What impression do scars make?"

Michael, an economics graduate, has a similar experience, but describes his disability – a mild form of dyspraxia – as "hidden". The fact it isn't immediately obvious makes it harder to manage, he says. Although he is very self-assured, he worries whether employers would want to offer him a job once they realised he has dyspraxia because the condition can be misunderstood. "If you think of networking like speed dating, then it's very hard to disclose the fact you have dyspraxia in a short space of time. It's misunderstood anyway – I've had people label me as clumsy – so explaining it would take five minutes itself. At networking events I constantly ask myself whether I should reveal the disability when I'm meant to be selling myself as much as possible. Some people with disabilities such as dyspraxia just shy away from social situations because they don't want to feel awkward."

Feeling awkward or embarrassed is something Caroline, a graphic design graduate, who is partially deaf, experiences a lot. "The arty networking events I attend are usually very noisy, and it can be a pain to ask people to speak up when I have difficulty hearing them," she says. "Comprehending deep voices can be a struggle at the best of times, so in a situation like networking the problem is only exacerbated. Of course, I could ask people to speak up, and I sometimes do, but it can be easier to be quiet and let it pass, than to ask and be embarrassed."

She has also experienced people trying to give her advice, which she says was ill-informed and irrelevant. "People have advised me that I should seek out quieter networking events which would be 'kinder to my ears'. But I know that the type of people I want to network with, to develop my career as a freelancer, don't usually attend quiet, formal events."...

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International Comparison of women on boards

International Comparison  Download the 2011 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Board Directors, published in December 2011.

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Female representation on Not-for-profit, University and Government boards

Not-for-profit organisations (NFPs) Women are significantly better represented in NFPs than they are in public listed companies. According to research by Women on Boards conducted in 2008, women comprise 30% of directors, or their equivalents, in top NFP organisations (by revenue) In contrast to public listed companies, more than 75% of NFP boards were reported as having at least one female director in 2004. Universities Of the governing councils of Group of Eight  (Go8) universities in Australia, 33% of members are female. Approximately 40% of Go8 senior committee members are female (Go8 and member university websites, November 2012). Government As at 30 June 2012, women held 38.4% of Government board appointments. This is an increase from 35.3% in 2011. Over the 2011-2012 financial year, 41% of the 1633 new board appointments were awarded to women (FaHCSIA website, November...

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Appointments to ASX 200 Boards

The latest percentage of women on ASX 200 boards is 15.4% (17 December 2012). The percentage of women on boards of ASX 200 companies and the proportion of women comprising new appointments increased significantly in 2010 and 2011. The figures are the highest they have been in Australia, however we still have a long way to go. A total of 52 boards in the ASX 200 still do not have any women. Source: Statistics for 2004, 2006 and 2008 are drawn from EOWA's 2008 Australian Census of Women in Leadership. Statistics for 2010, 2011 and 2012 are based on the Australian Institute of Company Directors research.  Proportion of women comprising new appointments Women have comprised 23% of new appointments to ASX 200 boards to date in 2012 (17 December 2012). Women comprised 28% of new appointments to ASX 200 boards in 2011. Women comprised 25% of all new appointments to ASX 200 boards in 2010, compared to only 5% in 2009 and 8% in 2007 and 2008. Source: Research conducted by the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Number of women appointed to ASX 200 boards 40 women have been appointed to ASX 200 boards in 2012 to date (17 December 2012). Download a list of the female directors appointed to ASX 200 boards in 2012. 68 women were appointed to ASX 200 boards in 2011. 56 women were appointed to ASX 200 boards in 2010, a substantial increase on 2009 (10 women appointed). Source: Research conducted by the Australian Institute of Company...

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