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ASX sets sights on gender inequality -

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ELEANOR HALL: The Australian Stock Exchange is set to force companies to disclose the number of
women they have in senior management positions.

The rules are intended to boost the number of female executives in Australian companies and the
Federal Sex Discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick says it will, for the first time, allow
Australians to see what companies are doing to achieve gender equity.

Lindy Kerin has our report.

LINDY KERIN: A survey of Australia's top 200 companies last year found there's still a long way to
go when it comes to gender equity in boardrooms around the country. It found just 8 per cent of
board members were female while almost 50 per cent of boards had no women at all.

The Australian Stock Exchange has proposed new guidelines to change that. It wants ASX companies to
publish details in their annual reports about the number of women employees as well as those in
senior management roles.

Eric Mayne is the chair of the Corporate Governance Council at the ASX.

ERIC MAYNE: They work on an "if not, why not" basis. So there will be a recommendation that says to
all listed companies that they should have a diversity policy and that if they do not have a
diversity policy they need to explain why they do not have one.

So the first basic rule will be is that listed companies should have and also disclose the policy
or a summary of the policy, a diversity policy that deals with gender, focuses particularly on
diversity issues but more particularly around gender initiatives.

LINDY KERIN: The proposed guidelines would also force companies to detail their progress.

Eric Mayne says the guidelines should be implemented by the middle of next year.

ERIC MAYNE: The expectation is when we do put these principles and recommendations up for reporting
by listed companies that they do embrace the concept and they do report against this, against that
and which of itself then leads to a cultural improvement and adoption of the actual underlying
objective behind the principles and recommendations.

So hopefully we will see a much higher figure in terms of the gender mix within the next two to
three years.

LINDY KERIN: Claire Braund is the executive director of an advocacy group called Women on Boards.

She's welcomed the guidelines saying it will make companies more accountable.

CLAIRE BRAUND: We think it's an historic development and for the first time, they've embedded
gender clearly into business processes at the highest level and to comply with the principles and
recommendations ASX companies are going to have to set measurable targets for gender and they're
going to have to report their progress and the importance of this step cannot be underestimated.
It's what we have all been talking about and lobbying for four years - accountability.

LINDY KERIN: The Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick has described the
guidelines as an historic development for women's leadership in Australia.

ELIZABETH BRODERICK: At the minute, we're behind any one of our OECD (Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and Development) competitors when we look at the number of women on boards and in
senior management. I'm hoping that this will turn that picture around and in fact many other
countries will start to look at the regulation we have in our main exchange, in the stock exchange
and look to do likewise.

LINDY KERIN: But Elizabeth Broderick says if there aren't significant improvements, drastic action
should be taken.

ELIZABETH BRODERICK: This is the opportunity for business to fix this situation themselves and I
think most businesses will step up to the mark. We may see some competitive tension between
businesses on this particular issue, which will all be positive, but I think the message is, if
this doesn't work to change the lack of women at senior leadership level and on boards, then we'll
need to do something more significant, and I'm on record having talked about quotas.

That might be government imposed quotas. It may actually be taking this reform into the actual
listing rules of the stock exchange, but I think the first thing is for business to step up to the
mark and start to fix this problem themselves.

ELEANOR HALL: That is the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick speaking to Lindy
Kerin.