Family folklore has it that shadow treasurer Joe Hockey’s grandmother was such a good share trader that her bank sent out messengers to her house every two weeks to pick up her dividend cheques for deposit.
She had a millinery business but started trading on the Sydney stock exchange in the 1920s to try and boost the family income. As a result, she ended up owning “fairly large chunks of Chatswood,” a major suburb on Sydney’s North Shore.
Hockey told the story today at a leadership symposium for Executive Women Australia in Sydney at which he gave the keynote speech on increasing gender diversity in the Australian business landscape.
He also recounted how his mother had to leave her job at the Commercial Banking Corporation after she married — the custom for women in corporate and government roles in Australia at the time.
Hockey, who is set to be Australia’s next treasurer if the Coalition wins the federal election on September 14 as expected, was repeatedly pressed on whether his party would introduce mandatory quotas or other hard targets for companies and ruled out regulatory intervention.
“The enemy of greater workforce participation is more regulation,” he said.
Quotas would only be a “last resort” if there was a signal failure in Australian companies to increase female representations on boards, and when asked about tax incentives or subsidies for companies that encouraged gender diversity, he also ruled them out.
“No. There’s no money,” he said.
Hockey, whose wife Melissa is a successful investment banker, told the audience of mainly female business leaders that his key message on encouraging gender diversity was to men. “The role and responsibility of men is to promote people of talent”, and corporate Australia shouldn’t be threatened by successful women emerging. “A lot of men are threatened by this wave of talented women or even men who are coming on the scene,” he said.
After the recent release of Goldman Sachs research which said Australia was missing out on $195 billion in lost productivity by not closing the gender gap, Hockey said investors should be putting more pressure on companies to recruit more women into leadership positions. “I say to the shareholders of Australia that you should be demanding there are more women on your boards, because that might be a pathway to more profits and better returns.”
But a Coalition government wouldn’t be legislating for change he said. Instead, they would repeatedly be raising the issue with male decision-makers.
“Tell them about it, encourage them to do it, and when they don’t do it, ask them why they are not doing it,” Hockey said. For those who still resisted, he suggests delivering “the killer line” – asking if they want the same opportunities for their daughters as they do for their sons.
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