A survey by Stuff back in 2019, showed that there were more Male CEOs called Mark than female CEOs on NZX. The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Impact Report 2022 by Global Women and Champions for Change, showed that only 14% or 7 of NZX50 companies had female CEOs. Which is astonishing when you consider that in 2022 women make up 47% of New Zealand’s workforce. The DEI Impact Report estimated that if female workforce participation was to increase to 50% by 2030, this would generate an extra 9% of GDP which is $20-40bn to New Zealand’s economy.
I started my work career in the late 1980s in London, with a background in law and an initial career trajectory as a barrister, before transitioning into the financial service industry. What sparked my initial interest in finance was the mismanagement of trusts in my family. This experience taught me a great lesson, that I never wanted to be dependent on others for my financial well-being.
To put it in perspective, during this time in England, there were laws still in place to limit the financial well-being and independence of women. Prior to 1990, under the Reform of Personal Taxation, the system stripped married women’s financial independence and privacy in tax matters. A couple’s income was added together and treated as if it was the income of the husband. Under the 1918 income taxation act, married women were classed as “incapacitated persons” alongside, infants, lunatics, and the insane.
At an early age, I realised that it was extremely important to give people, the tools to be financially independent in order to have choices and opportunities throughout their life. Women need to be in control of their destiny and operate independently.
In 1996, I became the first female CEO of Johnson Fry PLC (now Legg Mason Investors) in London, and the youngest CEO of an FTSE-listed company. After several other leadership positions, including CIO of ING NZ, in 2006, I founded Mint Asset Management, which was when I became one of the very few female founders and CEO of a financial services business, in New Zealand.
What can we do to make it easier for women in leadership positions? In terms of business-level changes, we can make parental leave policies gender-neutral which supports either parent being the primary caregiver. My time as a new parent was a balancing act but I realised less time out of work meant an easier adjustment coming back into the workforce, less re-training, and fewer missed growth opportunities in their career.
From a leadership and mentor perspective, we can make sure females in our companies have the correct support and development programs in place to succeed. That way when projects and promotions come around their managers already know what they want and expect from their career plan and can put them forward.
If we need another reason, other than morality and the benefit of the overall economy, the DEI Impact Report analysed companies on their levels of gender diversity in executive teams, and the results showed that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability, than companies in the bottom quartile.
Disclaimer: Rebecca Thomas is the Chief Executive Officer at Mint Asset Management Limited. The above article is intended to provide information and does not purport to give investment advice.
Mint Asset Management is the issuer of the Mint Asset Management Funds. Download a copy of the product disclosure statement here.
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