The recently-released 2015 gender diversity statistics show that just 17 per cent of board members for NZX-listed companies are women – the lacklustre figure is a drop on last year’s 19 per cent but an overall rise since 2013, when the figure sat at a paltry 12.4 per cent.
"This concerns me, it's nowhere near where it should be,” said Institute of Directors’ chief executive Simon Arcus.
EEO commissioner Jackie Blue agreed and said businesses would be missing a trick if they didn’t try to encourage gender-balanced boards.
"International research shows that inclusive workplaces and inclusive leaders are linked to greater creativity and innovation,” she explained – one comprehensive study
sponsored by BMO Financial Group found that companies that are closer to gender parity in management positions deliver return to shareholders that is 24 per cent higher than that of companies with low female representation.
Blue also stressed that, if things carry on as they are, it could take 15 years before 50 per cent equity was achieved – but could New Zealand businesses stand to learn something from our overseas counterparts?
In 2010, the UK was in a remarkably similar position to where New Zealand is now – with a marginally better female board representation of just 12.5 per cent – but business leaders responded, launching the ‘30 per cent club.’
With a goal of reaching 30 per cent female representation before the end of 2015, the initiative just missed, securing an impressive 26.1 per cent instead.
The club also launched international chapters in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, South Africa and the U.S – could New Zealand be next?
“As more women join boards and demonstrate the value they add, the system will become self-perpetuating,” said Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investment Management and founder of the 30 per cent club.
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Not only is New Zealand displaying disappointing statistics when it comes to gender-balance in boardrooms but, according to the equal employment opportunities commissioner, it could take over a decade to set things straight.