The Wests Group are considering appointing the first woman to serve on their board of directors

OPTIONS: Wests CEO Phil Gardner
OPTIONS: Wests CEO Phil Gardner

FOR almost six decades, they have overseen one of the most successful business empires in Newcastle’s history.

Now the Wests Group board of directors are pondering whether they could use a woman’s touch.

Since the foundation of Western Suburbs Leagues Club as a modest licensed premises in New Lambton in 1960, the boardroom has been a men’s-only domain.

That could change before the end of the month.

One of the seven Wests directors is expected to retire at the club’s next monthly board meeting, creating a casual vacancy.

That would entitle the remaining six directors to appoint a replacement, rather than leaving a seat unoccupied until the next annual election.

Wests Group chief executive Phil Gardner confirmed that welcoming a woman on board was an option that was being considered. 

“The board is looking towards gender diversity, skill sets and so on,” Mr Gardner said. “And quite possibly we could end up with our first female director.’’

History suggests that once directors are voted onto the Wests board, they are in it for the long haul.

Chairman and former accountant Owen Kilpatrick has been a board member for a remarkable 45 years.

Former policeman Wayne Hore has served for 36 years, schoolteacher Geoff Coburn for 24 years, retired engineering officer John McLaughlin for 19 years, and retired university lecturer/bookmaker Jack Ashman for 16 years.

"Quite possibly we could end up with our first female director."

Wests CEO Phil Gardner

The only two board members with less than a decade of service to their name are real-estate broker Robert Darcy (seven years) and university deputy vice-chancellor Scott Holmes (six years).

Gardner said the board was preparing to enter a transitional phase.

“There will be substantial succession on the board, and myself, over the next five to seven years, because we’re all getting to that stage together,” Gardner said.

“We’ll be hoping we can attract some younger people onto the Wests board, and hopefully some gender diversity. This will be an important first step towards what we see as the long-term right structure for both Wests and the Knights.”

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