Less than 30 small caps have equal representation of women on their boards. There are 1714 small caps
Link copied to
We may be seeing more women on boards and in senior management roles across several sectors, but ASX-listed small caps are still not doing so well when it comes to attracting the ladies.
Less than 24 per cent of companies with a market cap of $400m or less have at least one female director on their board, according to Stockhead’s analysis of data.
That’s barely 400 of 1714 companies.
Less than 30 have substantial female representation (i.e. more than two or 50 per cent or more).
There is still a perception that there is a shortage of women fit for board or senior management roles, but according to one recruitment expert that isn’t the case.
“There’s no lack of senior women in the market, there really isn’t,” Kelly Quirk, head of Perth-based recruiting firm Harrier Human Capital, told Stockhead.
“There are thousands and thousands of women out there in senior roles across Australia.
“There is the perception they’re not there, they are. The strategies to attract them are not there.”
Of Harrier Human Capital’s clients, all have women on their boards, but they are still less than 20 per cent of the board representation and they’re in non-operational roles.
“They’re probably someone who was a former chief people officer somewhere or someone who may have been in the professional services firms as an auditor or a lawyer, but it isn’t in the mainstream operational, commercial or finance roles,” she explained.
“It’s not a balanced representation of female commercial business leaders, it tends to be support functions.”
This is particularly true when it comes to health, according to Ms Quirk.
“If you look at the health sector, a high proportion of females there are in more ancillary-based roles rather than more senior either medical, clinical or leadership roles,” she said.
By comparison the mining sector is actually doing not too badly.
Nearly 28 per cent of the 406 companies that had females on their board were explorers and miners, including oil and gas players.
The mining sector is a “lot better than people give it credit for,” Ms Quirk noted.
“I think we have to acknowledge the nature of the sector, meaning certain role profiles are probably more appealing to men than they are women and that’s just a simple fact.
“But times are changing. It’s nowhere near as bad as it was.”
But in 2019, the vast majority of board heads and CEOs are still men.
Here’s a list* of ASX small caps with female directors:
*The list does not include CEOs unless they are also directors.
When it comes to the big end of town, Ms Quirk believes it’s all “grand statements” and no strategy.
She says investors want to see greater diversity of boards, but the vast majority of board heads and CEOs in the ASX200 are still men.
“When you get into big and medium businesses, there’s an absolute lack of strategy around diversity,” she said.
“I’d argue that many of the people in those roles are not looking, they’re making these motherhood statements but they’re not actually looking seriously around the women – what they need, the role they are going to do and how they are going to attract them.”
There are some outliers though.
Taking the lead for the big guys, Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG) has put its money where its mouth is.
Five of the iron ore producer’s nine board members are female and one is deputy chair. Fortescue also has two women heading the company.
Elizabeth Gaines, who joined the board in 2013, was appointed CEO last year and her right hand is Julie Shuttleworth, who serves as deputy CEO.
On the junior front, Ms Quirk says while companies have greater challenges, they need to think more seriously about bolstering their female contingent.
“If you think about the mid to small cap organisations, they do tend be less than 200 employees and probably $50m of GP (gross profit) and those businesses don’t have mature people strategies,” she explained.
“There’s definitely a market perception that needs to change but those guys have got more pressing challenges … around cash flow and capitalising.
“What they’re not looking inherently at is blend and balance in terms of diversity across their businesses.”
The boss of manganese explorer Bryah Resources (ASX:BYH) says there is still a touch of that “boys club” in the industry, but it’s a matter of attracting the right talent.
“I think companies have to be conscious of that requirement to get the right competent and diverse mix across their board,” Neil Marston told Stockhead.
“A lot of companies are only three board members. If you’ve got six rather than three there’s much more chance for that diversity.”
Bryah does have women employees, but does not yet have a female on its three-director board.
A couple of small resources companies that do have women on the boards and in leadership roles are gold explorer Indiana Resources (ASX:IDA) and gold and base metals explorer Sipa Resources (ASX:SIP).
Indiana is chaired by Bronwyn Barnes, who is also on the board of Scorpion Minerals (ASX:SCN).
Meanwhile, Lynda Burnett heads up Sipa as its managing director. Sipa also has three women on its five-director board.
Cobalt explorer Accelerate Resources (ASX:AX8) also has a female managing director.
Ms Quirk says for companies to be more successful in getting more women to join the ranks, they need to clearly define what roles they want the individual women in.
“They can work with specialist organisations that look at writing and executing diversity strategies, because it’s not just go and a hire a woman simply to have a woman in the business,” she explained.
“You need to look at everything from the training of those individuals, the role structures, the HR policies within your organisation, the culture they’re coming into.
“Because if you have a very aggressive alpha-male small-cap mining culture, which is all about hunting and finding the next asset, that’s not necessarily going to appeal to each individual.
“Unless you materially change something in the environment, you will not attract and retain those individuals into those roles.”