International Women’s Day Shines Spotlight on ASX Gaps

By Lelde Smits. Published at Mar 8, 2019, in Features

International Women’s Day has shone a spotlight on a number of areas of improvement for closing the gender gap on board representation for ASX-listed company boards.

The annual day presents an opportunity to look at the state of play for equality around the world, in particular full-time employment, workforce participation, improved educational enrolments and earnings growth.

According to a new index on these key factors released today, women are at least 12 years from financial equality. The Women’s Index, which measures the economic progress of Australian women on a quarterly basis, rose 1.9 points to 122.7 points in the March quarter, up from a revised 120.8 points in December 2018.

Progress is being made but Founder of the Financy Women’s Index, Bianca Hartge-Hazelman says, “We still have too many Australian women unable to realise their economic potential. Surprisingly, in a time of rising employment, there are women who are still underpaid and underemployment is worse than a decade ago. Employers and policy makers need to do more to support women in addressing the many challenges that continue to hold back financial progress.”

Zoono Group Limited’s (ASX:ZNO) Director and Company Secretary Elissa Hansen is an advocate for diversity on boards and has welcomed results showing women are making economic progress but agrees there is more to do to achieve financial equality.

Elissa was originally a board member of Goldsearch Limited in October 2015 before undertaking a reverse take-over, re-listing on ASX as New Zealand based Zoono Group on 9th May 2017, and has nearly 20 years’ experience in advising management and boards on investor relations, governance, compliance and other corporate issues.

“Unlike the top 200 companies, there is not the same focus on diversity for small caps on the Australian share market so I was thrilled for Zoono to welcome me to the board as they accelerate their development, manufacture and distribution of innovative antimicrobial sanitisation products.”

“While Zoono has an international footprint and workforce, my role is conducted from Sydney in Australia and I welcome the focus that International Women’s Day and reports on women’s economic development are bringing to all ASX-listed companies.”

“Australian investors need to understand, board diversity not only promotes a healthy society but a productive, balanced and effective board working to deliver positive shareholder returns.”

The second highest ranking position on the board of Ellex Medical Lasers Limited (ASX:ELX) is held by Maria Maieli – both the Company Secretary and Chief Financial Officer who was appointed to the roll in May 2011.

Maria joined the board of the Australian ophthalmic medical device company after more than 25 years of service as a corporate leader in financial and governance management in both public and private companies as one of many women in senior leadership positions.”

“Ellex has a strong focus on employment through merit which is why we have been able to grow such an internationally successful company and maintain a reputation for excellence in the wellness field.

“I value being part of a board that supports and encourages me to excel as we collectively work to grow our operations with a diverse range of experts such as leading physicians, teaching institutions and universities to discover, develop and deliver new technologies for the safe and effective treatment of a broad range of eye conditions.

“The Australian finance industry has come a long way with promoting diversity on boards but we need to continue to be vigilant through promoting board diversity as diverse skills do make for successful listed companies.”

The Capital Network’s Co Founders Julia Maguire and Lelde Smits represent emerging companies on the Australian Securities Exchange with investor relations and note how the finance sector still has a long way to equality, in and out of the boardroom.

Julia Maguire and Lelde Smits
Julia Maguire and Lelde Smits

Executive Director Julia Maguire says, “It is alarming to read the latest Financy Women’s Index and learn women are at least 12 years away from financial equality. We need to continue to support women and workplaces, including within all ASX-listed companies, to embrace diversity and build a stronger future for all.”

Executive Director Lelde Smits says, “Throughout my career as a finance journalist, presenter and advisor to ASX-listed companies gender inequality has always been evident in every boardroom and even on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. However, information now being reported means the world is starting to take notice and it’s now time for more action.”

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