Co-ops and mutuals lead the way on gender diversity

08 March 2022

The number of women at the helm of Australia’s top co-operatives and mutuals increased five-fold over the past five years, outstripping progress on gender diversity among ASX 200 companies.

Data soon to be released as part of the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals’ annual National Mutual Economy report shows the representation of women Chief executives at the biggest 100 co-ops and mutuals was 17 per cent in 2021, up from 3 per cent in 2016.

The data also shows that the number of top 100 co-ops and mutuals with women chairs grew from 15 per cent to 21 per cent during the same period.

“These figures reflect the values such as inclusion and diversity that co-ops and mutuals have at their very heart. They also reflect a shift amongst executives looking for purpose driven businesses to work for,” BCCM chief executive Melina Morrison said.

“We have a unique opportunity to empower women to lead because we have a member-owned governance structure that invites people from different backgrounds to put up their hand for a board position.”

“While it is heartening on International Women’s Day to be sharing such tremendous progress on gender, it is important to stress that co-ops and mutuals are about hearing everyone’s voice.

“We recognise that diversity and inclusion in the boardroom – whether it be in relation to gender, disability or race – will ultimately make us more successful organisations.”

Women Chairs and CEOs in CMEs

The latest data comes after 2016’s Eliza Project, undertaken by the BCCM to address the under-representation of women in senior executive positions within the co-ops and mutuals sector.

The BCCM’s most recent data shows that in 2021 the co-ops and mutuals to have appointed women CEOs were predominantly in the areas of private health insurance (5) and general insurance and professional indemnity (5), with banking and financial services (4), health services (2) and education, training and childcare (1) also represented.

The highest-ranking co-op or mutual to have a women CEO in 2021 was the private health insurer HCF, which is the second largest by turnover. HCF has been run by Sheena Jack since August 2017. By comparison, the highest-ranking women-led co-op or mutual in 2016 was the 49th largest.

“I’m proud of the progress our members have made to encourage greater diversity at senior executive level, and it really shows that as a sector we now have a competitive edge,” Ms Morrison said.

Read our Gender Diversity of Chairs and Chief Executives among the Top 100 Co-operative and Mutual Enterprises (2016 – 2021) report.



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