Tuesday 17 December 2013

LIPS highlights gender split

LIPS Committee from left: Elisabeth Pickthall (Piper Alderman),
Lisa Chapman (Piper Alderman), Jayne Edwards
(Raine & Horne Commercial) and
Laura Stanton (Dean-Willcocks Insolvency Solutions).
Photo courtesy LIPS Committee 
THE gender-exclusive Ladies Insolvency Practitioners  movement made a rare exception last week when it admitted male practitioners to its Christmas soiree.

Most of the year LIPS events are women-only but last Thursday evening the rules were bent. In recognition, blokes thronged the Hunter street offices of host firm O'Neill Partners in numbers that initially saw LIPS' membership outnumbered. 

By 8.00pm O'Neill's L 17 verandah had filled and the ratio was closer to fifty fifty. Unsurprisingly, gender dominated many a discussion.

SiN asked one soiree-goer why she thought so few female insolvency practitioners had become registered liquidators. Her answer? "Personal liability". She had seen a mentor ruined when an appointment went bad. Did she think women might in general be more risk averse than men? She thought it was "possible". But it's likely other factors are also at play.

Figures supplied by the Insolvency Practitioners Association of Australia (IPA) show that Australia-wide there are 40 female registered liquidators out of a total of 688. In percentage terms that's 5.8 per cent, a significant increase since 2011 when only 4 per cent of registered liquidators were females.

However persuading any of the 5.8 per cent to expand on why few women have obtained a liquidators registration has been difficult. Several SiN contacted declined to reply. Even assurances that their speculations could be made anonymously failed to coax a comment from these torchbearers.

LIPS committee member Laura Stanton suggested that the professional requirements of the regulatory regime mean insolvency practitioners tend to accumulate sufficient experience and expertise to qualify as registered liquidators around about the same time as those that are female might also consider having children. And, unlike doctors, there are no locums for liquidators.

A senior manager at Dean-Willcocks Insolvency Solutions, Stanton said that taking time off to have children means sacrificing contact relationships and foregoing training to keep up with new legislation.

She told SiN she intends to qualify as a bankruptcy trustee. "I'm not averse to the personal aspect of bankruptcy," she said and indeed, the types of experience an insolvency practitioner has had - whether corporate or personal insolvency - influences career choices.

Interestingly, in terms of of bankruptcy, the IPA figures show that of 208 registered bankruptcy trustees, 8.7 per cent are females. Maybe there's a lesson there.

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