Yesterday recruiting company Korn Ferry released a survey showing New Zealand running last in the Asia/Pacific Region for female directors on boards.
Its embarrassing that China, India, Malaysia, Siganpore, Hong Kong and Australia all fare better than us. We used to lead the world when it came to representation of women. Kate Sheppard must be turning in her grave.
I thought Institute of Directors Ralph Chivers hit the nail on the head when he said:”There is no shortage of women who aspire to work at that level, or potentially suitable candidates. Women have told us they have difficulty getting noticed for opportunities to be promoted.” How refreshingly honest! He wasn’t prepared to use the tired, worn-out excuse that the problem is women dont want to be directors, or that they weren’t good enough and needed “mentoring.” If I had a dollar for everytime I’ve heard that one, I would be a wealthy woman.
Despite the National Government having a glitzy launch of a “Women on Boards” initiative aimed at the private sector in 2009, the reality is they had just scrapped the target Labour had set of getting 50% women on public sector boards. And so the survey shows that there has been no increase in the proportion of women on our boards and in the public sector (where the Government itself appoints board members) there has been no improvement on the 41% representation Labour had achieved by the time we left office. And its important, because research shows that companies do better with women involved in their decision-making. Women directors are better at risk management, less prone to group thinking, better at problem-solving and better able to link to diverse customers. That’s what research tells us.
Across the ditch, they have made some quick progress on this issue by simply requiring companies to report the facts of the organisation’s gender balance. The result has been that women now make up 25% of new appointments to ASX company boards, compared to just 5% in 2009 before the measure was brought in. In less than a year, the number of women appointed to Australia’s corporate boards has gone from 8% to 14% by just taking this simple measure.It seems that when companies are required to look at their own dismal records, that’s when women start to get noticed. We could do the same – actually we were doing something remarkably similar to this with pay equity audits in the public sector before National scrapped it when they came into Government.