Public sector leading the way on changing board culture: Hogg

DIVERSE: 33 per cent of Hydro Tasmania's board is comprised of females. Picture: Phillip Biggs
DIVERSE: 33 per cent of Hydro Tasmania's board is comprised of females. Picture: Phillip Biggs

Public companies must take the lead of government business enterprises in promoting gender diversity in executive roles. 

That is according to Hydro Tasmania director Samantha Hogg.

Ms Hogg is one of two female members on the six-person board of the state government enterprise, ensuring that the hydro-electric company reaches the 30 per cent gender diversity target set by the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Ms Hogg said government boards had become much more progressive over the past 10 years.

“I think that [greater diversity] leads to a more thorough conversation on any issue and ideally a more balanced decision making process,” she said.

“[The state government] has promoted the fact that women should be on boards and have been very strong in that.”

According to the Australian Institute of Company Directors’ latest gender diversity report, 126 of the largest 200 public Australian companies have not met the 30 per cent gender diversity target. 

Additionally, there are five companies without female board representation. 

Some have argued the dearth of women in upper-management roles is because most women, on average, do not possess the traits required for the cut and thrust of executive management. 

Ms Hogg flatly dismissed this notion.

“I think the major issue has been that it’s generally been men appointing men to come on to senior management roles or boards, so you often will have an unconscious bias,” she said. 

In 2015, Minister for Women Jacquie Petrusma endorsed a target of each government board and committee being made up of 50 per cent women by 2020.

The state government didn’t go as far as the Victorian government, which enacted a rigid 50 per cent quota in 2015.

Ms Hogg believes quotas aren’t necessarily the answer to the perceived gender imbalance.

“I think it really depends – if traction isn’t made without a quotas system, then I think there has to be encouragement and that may have to come in the form of quotas,” she said.

“I hope it doesn't come to that, but I think in some cases it does and once you build up the numbers it becomes self-fulfilling.

“There’s only a time you’d need to have quotas before it becomes a part of the natural way board appointments are happening.”