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Female-led Moneghetti to list on ASX as junior miners lag in diversity

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Female-led Moneghetti to list on ASX as junior miners lag in diversity

Pure-play gold explorer Moneghetti Minerals Ltd. is planning to list on the ASX in mid-2021 with an all-female board. Executive recruiters have said Moneghetti is the first of its kind, at least in Australia, where smaller companies' governance structures to support gender equality lag the majors.

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Moneghetti Minerals Executive Director Anna Nahajski-Staples.
Source: Moneghetti Minerals Ltd.

Moneghetti, which was incorporated in February, said Oct. 19 that it is "likely to be" Australia's first all-female-led resources company. It had finalized key board roles, with Executive Director Anna Nahajski-Staples announcing the appointments of Acorn Capital's Karina Bader as nonexecutive chair and Jorvik Resources' Karen Lloyd as nonexecutive director. Nahajski-Staples established corporate advisory firm Paloma Investments in 2011.

Fewer than one in five mining leaders globally are women, according to a recent analysis by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Abbi Vermey, founder and director of Acacia International, and Anita Ziemer, executive director of Slade Group, both said Moneghetti is the first ASX company with an all-female board to their knowledge. Acacia International and Slade Group are executive recruitment firms based in Australia.

Though Nahajski-Staples is a "big believer that there are a lot of women on the sidelines" who get overlooked for board roles, she told Market Intelligence that the Moneghetti board was strictly chosen on the requisite skills, knowledge and experience for its potential projects.

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Moneghetti signed an exclusivity agreement Oct. 27 with Orogen Royalties Inc. for a potential farm-in on its early stage Ecru gold project in Nevada, and the company is reviewing other gold exploration projects in Nevada, Arizona and Western Australia.

Nahajski-Staples set up New Zealand-focused gold explorer Condamine Resources Ltd. in 2017. The company was bought out by a major shareholder and listed Oct. 7 as Siren Gold Ltd. with a A$10 million IPO. Nahajski-Staples said in the Oct. 19 news release that the mining industry is "experiencing a changing of the guards of sorts, which we've seen with the larger ASX 200 mining companies but hasn't filtered down much to the junior end."

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Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. CEO Elizabeth Gaines.
Source: Fortescue Metals Group Ltd.

Governance structures

Vermey told Market Intelligence that she sees governance structures in Australia that support gender equality being "a lot more unsophisticated within the small- to mid-cap end of town, which is quite a large portion of the local market."

Boards need to embed strategic initiatives early on to recruit, train and adopt inclusive leaders and "widen the lens and consider females from other sectors as many of these skills are transferable and would also add more depth," Vermey said.

Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. CEO and Managing Director Elizabeth Gaines told media at the Diggers and Dealers Mining Forum on Oct. 13 that "it takes some discipline and culture in place to want to bring about that change" in diversity, which includes ethnicity. Diverse leadership helps generate "new ideas and innovation ... when everybody in the room doesn't have the same gender and background."

Step change needed

Gaines noted that the latest census by Chief Executive Women, or CEW, published in September, showed the number of women reaching senior leadership teams in S&P/ASX 200 companies is "actually flatlining." The metals and mining portion of that survey is displayed in the lower chart below. The CEW organization was formed in 1985 as a branch of Paris-based Women Chiefs of Enterprise.

Addressing Diggers and Dealers, Gaines cited research from Australia's Curtin University and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency showing that diverse leadership teams increase the likelihood of better company performance and said the data is "not driving the step change in diversity that Australia needs."

The likelihood of a female CEO falls with the market capitalization of ASX-listed companies broadly, the Bankwest Curtin Economic Centre's "Gender Equity Insights 2020" report said.

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Ziemer said a recent search by Slade Group for a nonexecutive director in the resources sector revealed plenty of women with the willingness and capability to do the job, "but it's certainly thin on the ground compared to the number of men with the experience."

This is why Ziemer believes that gender quotas would help bring women up through the ranks into more senior leadership roles. Ziemer echoed Gaines' belief that while there has been a major push among top companies for female board representation, the C-suite has been "left behind."

Ziemer observed that women often occupy roles such as chief marketing officer or head of people and culture, "but until we get more women in the line operational roles, and head of finance, it will be really hard" to see more representation at C-suite level.

Vermey said Acacia's female executive placements all come from mining engineer, legal and finance backgrounds, though the issue of working in a fly-in, fly-out operational role has been a stumbling block at times.

"I see the majors doing a far better job at driving initiatives to be more diverse, and they have the structures and money to do it. Where I see it falling down is in the smaller end of the market where such initiatives can't be compensated for," Vermey said.

"The overall sentiment in the industry is that many male leaders genuinely want more diversity in their organization," Vermey said. "They are really big advocates for wanting to mentor and promote female leaders, so we need to not be shy and put our hand up for further leadership and development and not sit around waiting for it."