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Female directors target sought in NZX code

NZN 25/10/2016 Fiona Rotherham

Diversity champion, Global Women, wants a minimum target of 30 per cent female board composition of NZX-listed companies as a best-practice standard benchmarked globally by 2020.

The leadership lobby group included the target in a submission to the NZX's proposed changes to corporate governance reporting requirements, the first review since 2003.

According to New Zealand's gender diversity statistics, women comprise 16 per cent of board members and 28 per cent of senior management officers as at December 2015.

That compares to 21.5 per cent of women on ASX200 boards and 26 per cent on the UK's FTSE100 boards.

The Human Rights Commission, in its latest submission to the NZX, said the number of female directors had increased by only 5 per cent since 2013.

While stopping short of calling for quotas, the group said without visible and clear gender targets, "progress to parity simply will not be achieved".

It also wants to see pay equity and other types of diversity, particularly ethnicity given New Zealand's rapidly growing Asian and Pacific Island populations.

The overall gender pay gap across public and private sectors is at 11.8 per cent, up from 9.9 per cent in 2014.

NZX's draft document recommends issuers develop a diversity policy but doesn't prescribe what should be in it.

Existing reporting requirements in the listing rules on diversity policies will remain mandatory in the code.

After considering feedback, the NZX hopes to get approval from the Financial Markets Authority for the revised code by the end of this year for implementation in the first quarter of 2017.

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