Diversity and inclusion in the New Zealand capital market
Women remain underrepresented in New Zealand’s business- and market-leadership environments. Market participants identify ways to help close the gap and suggest a key focus should be on promoting these careers at an early stage including via learning institutions.
LE QUESNE The YWF network is part of the Institute of Finance Professionals New Zealand. It was established in 2015 to take a leadership role in supporting increased diversity in the New Zealand capital market as well as the finance industry more broadly.
We see having a strong professional network as critical to help industry participants build networks, foster connections and obtain support throughout their careers. We do this by bringing together a cohort of younger women with individuals who are more advanced in their careers, to encourage networking and connections.
We hold a number of events each year, in Auckland and Wellington, to which we invite industry role models. We find this is a powerful way for people to understand career pathways as well as help bolster connections with more senior leaders in the industry. Junior members can use this network to ask for advice, introductions and information on different organisations. Fostering this approach is empowering for women and our aspiration is that it pays dividends in improving diversity over time.
DODDRELL Westpac measures its gender pay gap but we also publish it. We do this in order to be transparent and to promote discussion. One of the data points to emerge recently was that some of the higher-paid roles at Westpac are in traditionally male-dominated areas. We would love to recruit more women into these areas but we simply do not have the pool from which to hire for these roles. We need to start at the career-choice level.
One way to do this is by targeting schools and universities where students are starting to consider their careers. I am beginning to speak at universities with a view to highlighting the attractiveness of financial markets as a career for young women.
NG Financial markets have traditionally been male dominated, and while I wouldn’t say I have encountered significant challenges it can be a daunting sector to enter. ANZ has a female chief executive, treasurer and chief economist. All three are down-to-earth people who make themselves accessible to all levels of the bank, which is very helpful.
The environment is very supportive nowadays and we are starting to bring more women through – particularly in the markets area, which can be more challenging. I agree that educating young people is important, while at the same time being open and transparent around issues like the gender pay gap.
MINHINNICK NZX released its report on gender diversity on 8 March, to coincide with International Women’s Day. We report on gender diversity among listed issuers at the board and officer level.
Disappointingly, our report found that there has been very little change in the number of female directors of listed companies in New Zealand over the past three years – it still sits at 22.5 per cent. The S&P/NZX 50 companies have made some progress but elsewhere there has been a decline in the percentage of female directors, which is a shame to see.
Across the board, 25 per cent of officers in New Zealand listed companies are women. It appears that this is not getting enough traction or developing sufficient momentum as the years go by.
Another dispiriting statistic is that the gender pay gap across New Zealand increased during the pandemic, to 9.5 per cent in 2020 from 9.2 per cent in 2018. It is clear this is an area New Zealand needs to focus on.
We have also been focusing on and reporting gender pay equality within the NZX. We have eliminated our own gender pay gap for like-for-like roles but structural pay inequality continues to exist. We need to solve this by increasing the number of women in senior management and in tech roles. This education process must start in the middle- and high-school years to ensure women are choosing appropriate subjects to set them up for a career in these industries.
MINHINNICK My view is that they can be effective. Goldman Sachs, for example, will not take companies public if they do not have a specific percentage of women on their board. If progress is not being made without a hard push, one does wonder if targets need to be mandated.
RAYNER Early in my career, I was not sure about the merit of targets. I didn’t want to be perceived as getting promoted to meet a target – naturally I wanted my career progression to be genuine and reflective of who I am and my capabilities.
But now I am in leadership, and in an institution where we still have a way to go to get more females in leadership roles, I do see a place for targets.
I think they can be effective in raising awareness and transparency about the direction in which an institution is heading and why. They also ensure accountability. Targets can sharpen the focus on how to source the best talent possible for a diverse and inclusive workplace.
MARTIN I maintain some reservations about targets. I believe they may be able to make a temporary contribution but they risk embedding a view that women somehow need help to succeed; that they are not capable on their own merits.
Energy and focus also needs to remain on addressing underlying structural issues that may inhibit progress toward genuine equal opportunities for all. For example, surfacing unconscious bias in recruitment decisions, creating flexible working environments for all employees and promoting finance as an exciting and accessible career path to young women who are still in education.
FORD I think the education piece is hugely important. But so is the support we offer women mid-career, perhaps before children. It is important to demonstrate our vulnerability that we are balancing everything and we don’t get it 100 per cent correct all the time. I think sometimes people look at women with financial-market careers and think that we aren’t juggling families as well as work. It is very important to highlight that we are not superwomen and actually we are not perfect – but ultimately our kids make it to school and they get fed, and we get our work done as well.
The other important development from increased flexibility in the workplace is for more equal sharing of home and child needs from both parents – meaning women will feel they can devote time to their careers as well as their families.