THE Australian Council of Superannuation Investors has given corporate Australia a three-year ultimatum to substantially increase the number of women on company boards.

If companies failed to do so, the ACSI would press for regulatory change, ACSI president Michael O’Sullivan warned yesterday.

“If there is not a major shift in that time — the full three-year board electorate cycle — we will press for regulatory change,” he said. “Women have reached leadership positions in government, public service, science, education and the professions, but corporate boards remain an island of recalcitrance.”

He said ASCI would expect every ASX 200 company to have at least two women directors by 2014. The ACSI represents more than 41 funds, including the not-for-profit superannuation sector which collectively invests some $250 billion in funds.

Between 2001 and 2009, there was a dip in the representation of women on Australian boards, according to a study commissioned by the ACSI.

Women accounted for only 8.3 per cent of directors of top ASX 200 companies, which “confirms deterioration in recent years of female representation on these company boards”, the report said.

Mr O’Sullivan rejected the argument that there were not enough women candidates.

“There are high-calibre women available, but you will not find them if you refuse to look,” he said.

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