Corporate boards are increasingly picked from a wider talent pool, but gender diversity is taking its time, according to the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, which advises superannuation funds on the responsibilities of the companies in which they invest.
Women held 18.1 per cent of the board seats at Australia's top 100 listed companies, an ACSI-commissioned study of companies that reported in the 2012 calendar year found. But more than half the top 100 to 200 listed firms did not have have any female directors, and the pace of female appointments in the top 100 companies slowed on the previous year.
More recent figures from the Australian Institute of Company Directors show women comprised 16.2 per cent of directors on ASX 200 boards by September 12 - but almost one-quarter of the companies still did not have any women.
And 25 women had been appointed to ASX 200 boards from July, comprising 22 per cent of all new appointments, the institute said.
ACSI chief executive Ann Byrne said the top 100 listed companies were "looking beyond the 'usual suspects' and making appointments from a more diverse pool of candidates".
"In 2012, women finally broke the '100 in the 100' barrier - there are now 105 women, occupying 144 roles, on the boards of Australia's top 100 companies," she said, adding there was "clearly still work to be done" on gender diversity.
Sylvia Falzon, appointed last year to the Perpetual board, said Ms Byrne's comments rang true.
"The real benefit of having conversations [about gender diversity] is it's allowed boards to think about what they want to achieve and what skills are needed," Ms Falzon said.
The report follows a push several years ago by the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the ASX to boost the percentage of women as ASX 200 company directors from 8.3 per cent. ACSI wants top 200 listed companies to have two female board members by March 2014.