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Women on boards drive sustainability performance

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11 November 2008

Women board directors may help improve sustainable performance, according to new Curtin University of Technology research.

The paper by Curtin’s Graduate School of Business Research Fellow, Dr Jeremy Galbreath, shows women possess critical skills and attributes that are beneficial in developing a balance across financial, social and environmental business outcomes.

“Appointing women to board director roles adds diversity and fresh perspectives to decision-making and improves information processing, which is particularly valuable as firms face the strategic challenge of demonstrating balanced performance across sustainability outcomes,” he said.

“There has been a call for more women on boards for many years and in the face of the challenges of sustainability, evidence from this research is significant for management researchers and practitioners.

“According to the findings of this research, firms in Australia may, in fact, be able to perform better by having women serve on the board.”

The study examined a sample of Australian firms and the results suggested a positive association between women directors and economic and social performance.

However, the Australian Census of Women in Leadership, released last week, showed that at board director level there were more than 10 men to every one woman in the ASX200.

Dr Galbreath said researchers had studied the link between women directors and firm financial performance in previous studies, but research examining women directors and sustainability had been scant.

“Studying only the links between women on boards and financial performance ignores other important organisational outcomes. In the current climate, financial performance is no longer the sole criterion for valuing firms in the market; environmental and social performance is also important,” he said.

Dr Galbreath said the study provided a roadmap for more focused examination of these relationships.

“Studying board structure is critical because it lends understanding to the roles of boards and how these roles impact on organisational performance,” he said.

Dr Galbreath is now undertaking a new ARC-funded study examining the link between corporate governance and sustainability. This research will lead to findings that will help companies structure their board in a way that can help improve sustainable performance.

Contact: Dr Jeremy Galbreath; Research Fellow; Graduate School of Business; 08 9266 3568; OR Monique Billstein; Public Relations; Curtin; 08 9266 3353; 0401 103 018;

Modified: 11 November 2008

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