Contemporary Governance Risks: What we’ve learnt so far

It’s been a great few months being able to bring our community some insights into Climate Change, Social Inclusion and Gender Equity. This series started on the back of the large amount of legislation and requirements Boards, Directors and Executives are needing to deal with. Everyone we’ve been speaking to who is undertaking our Governance Review and Development programs is saying that they understand they need to address these topics at the Boardroom table but don’t know where to start or how they can best lead their organisations in these topics.  


Why are these topics so important?

According to a report published by Inclusive Australia The Inclusive Australia Social Inclusion Index: 2018 – 19 Report “one in four Australians experience major discrimination based on their age, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, ability or origin.”

In regards to climate change, as we all know and as the Bureau of Meteorology State of the Climate 2020 Report confirms “There has been an increase in extreme fire weather, and in the length of the fire season, across large parts of the country since the 1950s, especially in southern Australia.” Climate change itself relates to any governing body organisation (be it small, medium, large, rural, regional or metro), because it’s reach and impact is far greater than just a change in the weather. The flow on effect to the communities we serve relate to their health, safety, access to food, clean water, electricity, heating and other essential services. The ultimate impact is on the venerable members of our society and whilst this is of the utmost importance to everyone, it is especially important at the Boardroom table.

And finally, gender equality whilst improving still has a long way to go in Australia. According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WEGA) achieving gender equality will lead to “more jobs and increased GDP. These two important pieces of our economic strength, which could result in decreased poverty, higher life expectancy and better quality of life.”


Our Contemporary Governance Webinar Series

To begin the series we spoke with Co-Founder & Non-Executive Director of Women on Boards Claire Braund about Gender Equity and Social Inclusion.

Claire started her discussion by explaining the difference between equality and equity. To illustrate the difference, Claire used the image of people standing on the boxes below. Her image helped us to understand that equity is giving people access to what they need so that they have the same opportunity as everyone else, rather than giving everyone the same access irrelevant of their starting point which is equality. This point was crucial to her when she started Women on Boards, they identified that women needed a bigger leg up than men did due to the lack of women on Boards at the time.

In the third image we can see that the supports aren’t needed anymore because the fence (source of inequity) has been removed. This third scenario is one that is not often seen but ideal to strive towards.



Claire summed up gender equity with the wonderful quote – “Gender Equity is about how we think about creating a framework to produce equal outcomes for people of different genders.”

Claire then talked about inclusion and how it broader than just social inclusion. There are in fact three types of inclusion: political, economic, and social. Political is about being able to have a say in decisions affecting your life, such as being able to vote. Economic is about being able to undertake paid or volunteer work. Claire points out that this is an area, as a country, in which we have work to do as the gender pay gap still sits at around 14-15%, fluctuating between different sectors. Social inclusion is about feeling valued and welcomed in interactions with other people.

An important learning that came out of Claire’s talk was that it was “important to address that diversity and inclusion are not the same thing, diversity is a state of being and not something that is governed while inclusion is a set of behaviours that can be governed and can be changed.” This is saying that it is not only enough that we have a group of diverse people around the table but that we also must behave well towards all members regardless of who they are.

In her summation Claire thinks that to address social inclusion we need to “look at our behaviours and we think about how we are behaving and what we’re doing to make sure that we include all those people that are sitting on the edge of the circle.”


In our second State of Governance webinar we spoke with Jo-Anne Moorfoot from Australian Centre of Healthcare Governance, Micaela Drieberg from Victorian Healthcare Association and Julia Cookson an expert convener for Governance Evaluator. The group spoke about Gender Equity, Social Inclusion and Climate Change and the insights they have on these topics across the health, community health, human services, and aged care sectors.

 This webinar went into great examples as to how our panellist have enacted and seen others address these key areas. If you haven’t seen it yet it’s a must watch regardless of what sector you’re in. Watch the recording here

 The main take away from this webinar was that real change starts from the top. Jo-Anne summed this theme up in such a thoughtful way – “it’s really important for boards to recognise the role they play in leading the organisation they are the apex they set the tone. We all know that the board sets the culture for the organisation so particularly with the issues that we’ve talked about today, social inclusiveness, climate change, and gender equality, if it’s not important to the board how can we expect it to be important to the organisation. The board must take a leadership role and set the expectations around what they want to see happen in the organisation, what sort of actions they want to occur and then they have to follow it up with seeing the evidence. Seeing evidence means that there is actual proof that the organisation is living climate change responsibility, social inclusiveness and gender equity wholly, otherwise it won’t happen.”

This also ties in perfectly with one of Claire’s comments around Boards leading culture and how “you cannot be what you cannot see.” This means that if a Board is homogenic, non-inclusive and uncooperative that is the behaviour and culture that is on show and the tone that has been set from the top.


What Next?

Whilst this is the end of the discussion series, it doesn’t mean that this is the last we will or should discuss these topics – this is just the start of the conversations that need to be had around the Boardroom table and beyond.

At Governance Evaluator we have decided to include new sub-modules into both our Board Evaluation and Director Development and Skills Matrix to ask Boards if they regularly see, discuss, and respond to evidence, both qualitative and quantitative, about the top risks relating to climate change, social inclusion, and gender equity. We will also be asking Boards if they reflect on their leadership in these areas as well. To ensure that we also gain the whole picture of the Board, and as recognition that they are important skills, we are also going to be asking Directors to rate their skills, knowledge and experience around climate change, social inclusion, and gender equity. These changes will start to be rolled out across our portal from next month.