New NZX rule aims to promote women, minorities

By Ruth Laugesen, Susie Nordqvist

Former New Zealand Prime Minister and Global Women chair designate Jenny Shipley is backing a call for publicly listed companies to declare how many women they have on boards.
File photo
Former New Zealand Prime Minister and Global Women chair designate Jenny Shipley is backing a call for publicly listed companies to declare how many women they have on boards. File photo

Publicly listed companies will come under new pressure to promote women to boards and management under proposed new stock exchange rules.

NZX chief executive Mark Weldon told The Listener that the stock exchange will be proposing new rules that will require all publicly listed companies to declare how many women and minorities they have in senior roles and as directors.

"What we would intend to consult on and would seek feedback on is a proposal that would see companies required to report on or disclose on the gender and other diversity makeup of board and management."

The change is to be part of NZX's biannual rules review process, and could take force from June 2012.

The moves are expected to be spelled out at a breakfast meeting on Wednesday in Auckland on "Enhancing New Zealand's Leadership - women, productivity and our economy" hosted by the Ministry of Womens Affairs and the Trans-Tasman Business Circle. The speakers are NZX Chairman Andrew Harmos, Prime Minister John Key, Women's Affairs Minister Hekia Parata, and Goldman Sachs chairman Stephen Fitzgerald.

NZX's moves follow a rule change by the Australian Stock Exchange has led to a 50 per cent jump in representation of women on boards in the space of just 18 months.

By the beginning of August 12.7 per cent of Australia's top 200 listed companies had women directors, compared to 9.3 per cent for the top 100 listed companies here.

The Australian policy recommends publicly listed companies have a gender diversity policy, and that they report progress on meeting its goals on it regularly.

The wording Weldon is proposing goes further in several ways: it is mandatory rather than voluntary; it demands direct reporting of diversity numbers; and it goes beyond gender to include diversity generally, which includes ethnic diversity.

"We're a very skinny economy, four and a half million people.

"If we systematically exclude, or don't create good pathways or accessible opportunities for large parts of the population, whether women or immigrants, then we are both unduly limiting the size of the talent pool and we are unduly putting a handbrake on growth in a globalised economy, where diversity of views, and experience is really valuable," said Weldon.

New Zealand Global Women chair designate Dame Jenny Shipley said she supported any move which brought New Zealand into line with standards in Australia - particularly when so many of New Zealand's publicly listed companies were dual listed.

"While we do not support quotas, we definitely support progress, "she said.

Genesis Energy will this week become the first state owned enterprise in New Zealand to report on gender and diversity consistent with ASX rules, Shipley, who chairs the company, said.

55 per cent of directors serving on the board of Genesis Energy are female.

THE NUMBERS

* 9.3 per cent - Proportion of women on NZSX 100 boards.

* 11.3 per cent - Proportion of women on ASX 200 boards.

* 41 per cent - Proportion of women on New Zealand public sector boards.

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