Clock ticking on gender diversity

WILLIAM MACE
Last updated 08:26 31/10/2012

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Companies listed on the stock exchange’s main board will have to report on gender diversity from December. NZX proposed the change in July but has now confirmed the timeline after receiving approval from the Financial Markets Authority.

Companies will be required to provide a gender breakdown of their executive management teams and boards of directors in their annual reports, and to compare the figures to previous years.

Late yesterday, NZX said the new listing rule would come onto effect on December 1, applying to all main board-listed issuers with a balance date on or after December 31, 2012.

When it unveiled the plan in July, NZX said it would also evaluate companies' formal diversity policies, if they had one, but would not make such a policy compulsory.

NZX chairman Andrew Harmos said international research showed that diversity in management and governance is an important factor in improved company performance.

“Whilst reporting on diversity in the listed equities sector will not in itself address the relative paucity of women in senior corporate and governance roles across the New Zealand corporate sector, we believe it will encourage our companies to consider diversity as one of a number of tools to deliver quality decision making,” he said.

Women's Affairs Ministry figures show only 9.3 per cent of directors on the boards of New Zealand's top 100 listed companies are women and the number of women in management roles is only 21 per cent.

Women's participation in running and governing Australian corporates has risen markedly since it introduced diversity reporting two years ago. In the past year, a third of all new board appointments to ASX200 companies were women, compared with just 5 per cent in 2009.

The 25 Percent Group, comprising business leaders in the public and private sectors, was launched in New Zealand a few months ago with a target of increasing female participation on New Zealand boards to 25 per cent by 2015. Accountant and company director Michael Stiassny, who is part of the group, has said gender is just the start of the diversity discussion New Zealand must have.

The NZX has also released a draft guidance note to help companies wanting to develop and implement diversity policies and related measures. Submissions on it are open via the NZX website until Friday November 23.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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