Company boards are failing to reflect society, a panel held at ACS’ Melbourne Innovation Hub said on Tuesday.

The event, held ahead of this year’s International Women’s Day and attended by more than 80 industry leaders, discussed how women can equip themselves for a board role, the process of attaining a position and being effective directors once appointed.

Panel MC Sarah Adam-Gedge, Managing Director of Publicis Sapient, kicked off the event by underscoring the under-representation of women on the boards of listed Australian companies.

“If you go back to the list of 2009 ASX200 companies, the number of women on boards was only 8 per cent. It's now just over 30 per cent which is fantastic but is it enough?” She asked.

Adam-Gedge’s question is reinforced by a 2019 report by the Australian Institute of Company Directors that found only 39 women had been appointed to ASX 200 boards over that year, a decline to 2013 levels.

On the panel as part of ACS Victoria’s #eachforequal event held in partnership with the Victorian Government’s Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, were Anna Leibel. CDIO at UniSuper; Dana Nelson, President & Managing Director at BGIS; and Karen Gee – Technology Business Partner at Melbourne Water.

The four participants spoke about their own experiences and challenges in maintaining both a busy executive career along with occupying board roles.

“A board career is where I want to go and I make conscious decisions to work towards it.. in saying that, even though I have a plan, I’m not going to turn down paths that could lead to success when they present themselves,” said Liebel when discussing how she planned to join a company board.

It wasn’t all about career, however, with all three panellists observing being on a board meant they are able to use their passion and talents to make the community a better place.

Gee, a Board Director of Fortem Australia, an organisation dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of the national security and first responder community said, “There are only 24 hours in a day, we need to make conscious decisions on how we spend them, you need to make sure your passionate about what you’re doing.”

When asked what makes you ready for a role on a board, Nelson said, “The more skills you have and the more rounded experiences you have, the easier it is to transition into a board role.”

Liebel added patience was key, as the process of joining the right board can be long.