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Profiling Women on Boards in the Pacific: Ms. Sharon Nalu

Company Secretary & Executive Manager Legal Services, NiuSky Pacific Ltd

Sharon was appointed as the Company Secretary for NiuSky Pacific Ltd (NSPL) (formerly PNG Air Services Ltd) on 9 July 2012. Prior to her appointment, she was practicing as a lawyer with various private legal firms for more than 10 years.

It was during a secondment at the Mineral Resources Development Company (MRDC) that her interest in Corporate Governance grew and when the opportunity to apply for a corporate secretarial role with NSPL came about, she did not hesitate to apply for the position knowing fully well that this job was in another industry, “aviation” an industry that she was not too familiar with at that time. She was keen to take up the challenge and learn about this industry and importantly be able to contribute meaningfully to NSPL in her role as Company Secretary.

Sharon has served on the NSPL Board for almost 9 years as the Company Secretary and is very passionate about what she does in the best interest of aviation safety. By virtue of her qualification, she holds a dual role with NSPL. Apart from her Company Secretarial role, she is also the Executive Manager Legal Services. She is the first and only female Executive Manager on the Executive Management Team having worked her way up the ranks. A lot of hard work, sacrifice, commitment and dedication and with the continuous support and understanding of her husband, children and family has earned her this dual role. At this juncture, she would like to acknowledge the support and confidence by the Board of NSPL and Executive Management Team for the opportunity to hold these dual roles. She is grateful for the continued support both at the Board level and Executive Management level.

Prior to commencing her legal career, Sharon also gained some work experience with the Bank of South Pacific Ltd and following that with the National Broadcasting Corporation as a trainee journalist. She is also a certified Black Jack Croupier. Sharon is married with two children.

1. Why do you think it’s important to have women represented on boards in the Pacific?

Good governance is critical for any board’s decisions whether private or public especially at this time as we continue to address the challenges of COVID-19. Diversity and inclusion of women on boards in the Pacific is paramount as this diverse board composition supports boards to be agile, relevant and connected.

Governance can incorporate many different practices. Some of the best practices include building a competent board, aligning strategies with goals, being accountable, having a high level of ethics and integrity, defining roles and responsibilities and managing risk effectively. Board diversity is critical to the success of a Company. Papua New Guinea (PNG) in particular is a nation with a diverse population with over 700 languages. To ensure that the voices and perspectives of women in PNG are represented and respected at the board level, highly talented and qualified women ought to be given that opportunity to provide strategic leadership on boards and be able to make informed decisions.

It has been proven that increasing diversity is not only the right thing to do for a company’s culture but it also leads to better business outcomes. Studies have shown that increased diversity leads to smarter decision-making, contributes to a company’s bottom line and powers innovation, among other benefits.

2. Did you face any hurdles getting a board appointment? No. I underwent two interviews for this Board Secretary position. I was interviewed by the Management and shortlisted for another interview with the Board. There were other experienced candidates. Having no prior experience as a full time Board Secretary apart from my brief exposure on secondment at MRDC, it was a challenge for me to convince the Board that I could take on the role. After the interview, I received a call and was offered the job which I accepted and have been there since. The lesson learnt here is that nothing is too big for you to handle if you believe in yourself and let God be in control. Take on challenges as opportunities to get over hurdles.

3. What do you foresee the hurdles to be in the future?

In PNG, we have a good number of women holding very senior leadership roles but only a handful are on boards and may be the same for other Pacific island countries. Unless we take some drastic action now to include women representatives on boards, the percentage of women on board in PNG and the Pacific will continue to be low.

4. What do you think needs to be done to ensure there are more women on boards in the future?

Actions need to be undertaken at the board level which means that the board chair, directors and executives can make gender parity a priority right across the company and restructure their company to ensure that the highly talented and qualified women in the company are accorded the opportunity to hold senior leadership roles. Recently, the Kumul Consolidated Holdings of PNG (KCHL) requested CV’s and biodatas from women members of Papua New Guinea Institute of Directors (PNGID) to create a database of women with a view to recruit women and have female representation on nine of their State-Owned Enterprises Boards. I consider this an excellent initiative and fully support this action taken by KCH as it is the right move to ensuring that there are more women on boards in the future.

5. What advice would you give to women wanting board positions?

If you think you can add value to a company, do not hesitate to put your hand up. Serving on a board is a huge commitment and should not be taken lightly. Honesty, integrity, independent decision making and objectivity are personal qualities necessary for board members to possess in order to properly fulfil your responsibilities. Become a member of PNGID as they always keep you informed of opportunities for Board positions.

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