Spreading the message that it is good business sense to have greater gender equality in the workplace is one of the main aims of a new lobby group launched this week.
The 25 Percent Group – which is made up of 12 Kiwi business leaders – announced it had the “single-minded objective” of achieving 25% female participation on boards by 2015.
Group convenor Andrew Barclay, who is CEO of Goldman Sachs New Zealand, said the economic benefits of gender diversity at board level were well proven, yet effective action to bring about real change had been slow in coming.
"We can point to at least four recent international studies that prove companies governed by boards with a higher percentage of women members perform better," he said.
"To achieve better results, the business community must move decisively to remove the barriers that preclude women from participating in the highest levels of leadership."
While New Zealand has long boasted a proud record in terms of gender equality, a stack of recent research indicates that record might be faltering in the workplace.
Not a single woman featured in the Business Herald’s annual list of top-earning Kiwi executives, which was released last week. Further, the list’s top 44 power earners were all men.
This week a NEXT magazine study found only 5% of Kiwi women believe equality is a reality in the New Zealand of 2012, and that a significant number of women had experienced workplace discrimination.
Other recent research found:
The majority of NZX 100 companies had no female directors, and that women filled just 21% of management positions reporting directly to chief executives and held only 9% of private sector directorships.
Of women polled by the Financial Service Institute of Australasia, 48% did not think females were well-represented in senior management roles, while 36% believed they were treated differently to their male colleagues.
Earlier this year, Equal Employment Opportunities commissioner, Dr Judy McGregor, said New Zealand could easily start to “slide behind those who are maximising the returns on investing in women’s participation”.
She said new thinking, particularly about women’s economic participation and corporate sector empowerment, was necessary for the country to stay on top.
To achieve greater workplace equality the 25 Percent Group, which said change needs to come from the top, recommended measures like:
Setting targets which are regularly reported against - like the NZX which has proposed a rule to include gender diversity as a part of its annual reporting requirements.
Broadening the thinking on recruitment processes by looking at the total available talent pool and thinking more laterally about people's experience.
Giving people the chance to demonstrate their skills and the opportunity to make a contribution
Bringing more women into the organisation generally to increase the size of the talent pool.
Encouraging women to put themselves forward for roles at all levels of the organisation.
Making use of the available online tools to assess whether employment practices are fair and transparent.
Disseminating relevant information and research.