ASX will ask companies to reveal gender diversity

Listed companies will be asked to publish the number of women in their organisation and on their senior management team and board under new guidelines unveiled by the Australian Securities Exchange.

Under the new proposed guidelines, the ASX will require every listed company to publish details of its gender diversity policy on an “if not, why not?” basis.

The policy, which the ASX wants to see published in a company’s annual report, would set out the measurable gender diversity objectives set by the board and provide details as to how the company is meeting these objectives.

The company would also need to publish information on “the number of females in the whole organisation, in senior management and on the board”.

At this stage, the guideline would be voluntary and there would be no penalty for companies that fail to meet their own target.

However, ASX supervision chief Eric Mayne has said that if the ASX can see after a few a years that objectives are not being met, the ASX may consider making the guideline a formal listing rule.

This could mean that ASX companies could be suspended from trade if they fail to disclose their gender policies or meet the objectives set by the board.

Diann Rodgers-Healey, founder of the Centre for Leadership for Women described the strategy to make disclosures voluntary as a “soft” approach but said that any move to improve gender diversity in listed companies was positive.

“But it’s how you use the data and how you make a case with it that makes it more worthwhile,” she says.

“It allows us to gauge where we’re at and put forward a case for where we want to be.”

The Australian Institute of Company Directors also backed the ASX move.

“In regard to gender diversity in particular, AICD believes that the present number of women on major company boards in Australia is not good enough. It needs to be increased,” chief executive John Colvin said in a statement.

“We think directors should be chosen from a broadly-based candidate pool. Of course, it is crucial that directors have the appropriate individual skills, relevant experience and sound judgement required to contribute effectively to a board but as a group they should also reflect diversity of gender, age, experience, relationships and background.”

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