Of the 46 technology companies included in the ASX All Tech Index which launched last week, just one has a female CEO.
The ASX has added 100 tech IPOs in the last five years, many of which were mid-cap listings such as Xero, Wisetech, Life360, and Fineos. The new index is designed to capture companies that are yet to qualify for the S&P/ASX 300 and give investors exposure to the fastest-growing businesses.
On the new-tech focused index 98 per cent of the CEOs of technology companies are men. That is worse than the gender gap of the broader companies on the top ASX200 – the latest count found only 6 per cent of top ASX200 companies were led by a female CEO.
The sole female CEO on the tech index is Kate Quirke, Managing Director of health informatics company Alcidion.
And while the boards of the tech index companies are also dominated by men, female representation is closer to 30 per cent level, the voluntary target set by the Australian Institute of Company Directors. That trend is particularly noticeable among some of the biggest companies in the index, Xero, Computershare, Altium, and Wisetech.
However, there are still eight companies in the index with no female board members including, Kogan.com, Atomos, Bigtincan Holdings, Dubber Corporation, NetLinkz, PainCheck, Pro Medicus and ResApp.
In an email interview with Which-50, Quirke said the reflection of gender diversity in management on the tech index probably reflects the lack of female representation across the tech industry generally.
“I imagine that the same issues face tech companies that face all companies in relation to making them attractive workplaces for women,” Quirke said.
“We need to provide flexible working arrangements for all employees and we need to ensure that we encourage males and females to take a balanced view of their work/life needs regardless of whether they have a family. We know there are great female leaders across the tech companies and there is no reason why they should not be represented more fully at the CEO and board level.”
Making a change takes a deliberate effort. Today 50 per cent of Alcidion’s executive management team is female, as well as 30 per cent of its board, but that wasn’t the case when the company first listed.
“After listing, when two board roles became available the board appointed their first female director, Rebecca Wilson,” Quirke said.
“Alcidion then acquired a couple of companies, one of which was MKM Health, of which I was CEO. At this time the board asked me to take on the role of CEO and as we have brought the companies together we have established a senior leadership team that has 50 per cent female representation, which is what you would expect in a health tech company where females make up such a large amount of the healthcare workforce.”
Quirke said that any meaningful shift requires, “active decision making around looking beyond just the skills someone has to actively seek diversity of opinion, which comes with gender as well as culture.”
“Firstly, make sure your recruitment processes are attracting the right kind of applicants, how are you writing your ads and job descriptions, who is on the interview panel, are values and diversity key selection criteria. It starts with how you represent yourself as a company. Then you have to retain people and develop them, active mentoring, providing a flexible work environment – tech companies are ideally placed to do this.”