The ASX All Technology Index officially debuted this week to great acclaim as an important new indicator of the growing maturity of the local tech sector. The unintended consequence of its launch, however, is that the Index has exposed the shocking gender gap in the leadership of listed Australian tech companies.
Of the 46 technology companies that make up the All Technology Index, 45 companies are led by a male CEO. Just one company is led by a female CEO. That is, 98 per cent of the CEOs of technology companies on the new tech-focused index on the Australian Securities Exchange are men.
This is both a terrible and shocking number. It is a monument of Brotopian proportions. It may as well be called the All Male Index.
In fact, Emily Chang’s rather excellent book Brotopia has parallels here. The self-image of tech as a cradle for change-the-world progressives is rather different in reality.
Certainly in Australia the gender gap among listed tech companies on the All Technology Index is far worse than the gender gap among the broader, generalist companies that make up the ASX200.
Of the 200 companies that make up the ASX200, at last count just 12 were led by a female CEO. Women make up just 6 per cent of the CEO cohort of ASX200 CEOs.
The Lone Female Ranger on the All Technology Index is Kate Quirke, who is CEO (or Group Managing Director) of health informatics company Alcidion. It is worth noting that the one company with a female CEO also has a female board chair in Rebecca Wilson. Ms Wilson is a high-profile communications specialist and is – in addition to being chair of Alcidion – is executive vice-president of WE Buchan in Singapore and Australia.
Collectively, the companies on the All Technology Index do better in relation to gender diversity on boards. A back of envelope accounting of the companies on the All technology Index had a gender ratio of female to male board members – 66 women to 196 men – of 33.6 per cent.
Eight of the 46 boards that govern the tech companies on the new index do not have any women on their boards. To be clear, 18 per cent of the tech companies on the All Technology index do not have a single female board member.
This is not a straight-forward issue. But the numbers tell a story, and it is a story worth telling. The ASX does not appoint the CEO’s on the companies that list on its exchange. And as an ASX spokesperson told InnovationAus this week, the exchange does not even manage the index or appoint the companies to it. That role is carried out by the ratings agency Standard and Poor’s.
But the numbers tell a story.
A week ago, federal Industry Minister Karen Andrews was at the ASX, enthusiastically ringing the bell at the unveiling of the All Technology Index.
And its creation is a positive. It’s good for our industry.
“The All Tech Index will play a big role in increasing the tech sector’s visibility and will make it easier for everyday Australians to invest in tech companies, and share in their success,” Mrs Andrews said at the launch.
“The Index will provide diversity for investors and spotlight Australia’s economic potential,” she said.
“Importantly, it will showcase the ingenuity, grit and perseverance of our tech industry that continues to deliver world-leading technologies.”
As a passionate supporter of women in tech, you have to wonder whether the minister would have rung that bell quite so enthusiastically if she’d known that the index featured just one female tech CEO.
An ASX spokesperson told InnovationAus that the ASX supports a series of gender diversity measures it sets out in its the Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations.
The ASX also promotes gender equality as a priority and supports equal participation of men and women in the workforce.
“We’re a member of Male Champions of Change; we have Our Women’s Network internally; participate in Chief Executive Women Leaders Program; ring the bell each year for gender equality; and are recognised as an Employer of Choice by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency,” the ASX spokesperson said.
“ASX has a target of 40 per cent female representation for all senior management levels (achieved 39 per cent in FY19) and 40 per cent target across the organisation (achieved 41 per cent in FY19).”