Gender balance creates better boards, claims Deakin expert

Advancing Society and Culture

Accounting and Finance Professor Ferdinand Gul says research can play a key role in improving corporate board gender balance.

When there are more females on corporate boards, a firm usually performs better in terms of information, communication and accountability, claims one of Australia’s leading experts in finance and accounting, Alfred Deakin Professor Ferdinand Gul.

Professor Gul, who joined Deakin’s Business School in 2015, is internationally renowned for his research in accounting, auditing, corporate finance and governance reform. He has published in all five of the world’s top accounting journals and a number of high profile finance journals.

His most recent research focus has been on corporate governance, gender diversity and pay differentials between males and females in the corporate sector.

“Inequality is unhealthy. People should be paid entirely on the basis of merit,” he said.

“US data shows that women are generally more careful, risk-averse and ask a lot of questions before making a decision … they are concerned about transparency, finishing a project and doing it properly.”

He noted that gender diversity holds significant implications for corporate reporting and financial performance, but Australia still has a “long way to go” in terms of equality. This makes research all the more important.

“The more evidence we produce, the more shareholders will take notice and ask why there are not more females on their boards. We don’t know all the reasons behind the lack of diversity, but we know that equality improves the wellbeing and psyche of society – and this provides broad social stability.”
Professor Ferdinand Gul
Professor Ferdinand Gul Alfred Deakin Professor
Professor Gul has notched up an impressive list of accomplishments throughout his career. For both his research and teaching, he is driven by the desire “to make a difference.” He has supervised more than 30 PhD students and, in 2013, became the first person in Monash University’s history to be conferred a Doctor of Economics.

Since completing an undergraduate degree at the University of Malaya, a master’s degree in commerce at the University of Liverpool and a PhD from the University of New England, he has taught at a number of universities around the world, including the University of Malaya, and several universities in Australia and Hong Kong (where he was based for two decades).

“I spent seven years at the Chinese University of Hong Kong before moving to City University and Hong Kong Polytechnic, where I was head of a school with five disciplines and 148 staff,” he said.

In the 1990s, Hong Kong was shrouded by the backdrop of the “handover” of British sovereignty to China in 1997. During this time, he gained unique experience as to how educational and corporate governance attitudes change, evolve and respond to a changing socio-political environment.

“I was able to witness the devolution of British power and administration and see how Hong Kong tried to develop and deal with the Chinese government,” he said.

“Moreover, I provided consulting services to the Hong Kong Law Reform Commission on corporate governance and was pleased to see that several of my recommendations were accepted by the Commission.”

Prof Gul noted that one of the great rewards of a research career was having the opportunity to resolve problems and make a difference to issues such as gender diversity within society. As teachers, academics should never forget the importance of producing outstanding graduates.

“Quality graduates grounded in broad social and ethical issues improve human quality – and that leads to a better social and economic climate. At this stage of my career, I’m really happy to contribute to the development of individuals,” he said.

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