Australian supernnuation-fund boards suffer from “similarity selection bias” in selecting trustees and by doing so limit their opportunities to act, according to human-capital partner at Deloitte, Juliet Bourke.

Bourke, who leads the national diversity and inclusion practice at Deloitte, says people are attracted to other people who are fundamentally the same as themselves.

“We need to reset the mindset to help them understand that is the comfort zone but that’s not the best way of doing business,” she says.

Bourke, who works with corporations including Westpac and BHP on their diversity programs, says the collective intelligence of 10 people around a boardroom table will “cap out” if there is lack of diversity of perspective.

She says shifting the thinking on diversity can only be done by experiential learning and she works with corporates to go through unconscious bias training.

“We give them the opportunity to learn by experience, our workshops help leaders experience the information in a different way, and we look at inclusive behaviours.”

She believes that board diversity extends beyond gender diversity and to a difference of life experience and skill.

“Questions to the board are large and complex so diversity of thinking is essential,” she says.

“There are so few cues to check the measure of a boards’ success, the lack of demography is one measure.”

Women make up 20 per cent of board positions on Australian superannuation funds. On the boards of ASX-listed companies, that number is only 14 per cent.

The September issue of Investment Magazine looks at diversity on superannuation fund boards in Australia.


Papers on gender diversity mentioned in the cover story include and articles of interest on the topic include:

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