Friday, 16 April 2010

women in leadership, not.

while julie has a bit of much deserved down time, i thought i'd do a quick post on women's representation on boards. nowhere near as well as she'll be doing it, no doubt. but i found a couple of press releases on the scoop website today that seemed to be topical.

the first is from the nz federation of business and professional women, which commends hon paula bennett for gender diversity on the welfare working group, but also says:

BPWNZ deplores the fact that Mr Joyce has only appointed 20 women out of 78 to the Polytechnics councils – a mere quarter.

“The Minister for Tertiary Education, Steven Joyce surely deserves the brickbats award,” says Angela McLeod, President of
[BPWNZ]. This is especially so given that nearly 50% of the graduates from polytechnics are women and that it’s proven world-wide that gender diversity on boards increases the bottom line.

this is, of course, in addition to the fact that the size of the councils have been cut significantly back in december, reducing the ability of local communities to have an input into decisions that will have a significant impact on them. these changes reduced diversity on the councils further, by refusing to guarantee maori representation.

meanwhile, the minister of women's affairs had a press release out yesterday saying, well, i'm not sure exactly what:

The dismal record of having just 8.6 percent women directors in our top 100 listed companies’ boardrooms needs to be changed, Women’s Affairs Minister Pansy Wong told the Institute of Directors’ AGM in Wellington today.

International research continues to show that women directors add competitive advantage to companies and boost performance. For example, a recent study conducted by Leeds University in the UK looked at 17,000 companies and found that those with at least one woman director were 20 percent less likely to go bankrupt.

The Harvard Business Review looked into legislation in Norway - which requires companies to have a 40 percent quota of women directors - finding companies had no negative feedback.
France also recently introduced a quota system for women on boards, while Australia’s listed companies are required to disclose the number of women they have on their boards....

[Mrs Wong says] “All we need for companies to reap the benefits is for them to give women directors a fair go. I am determined to be the catalyst of change by working with Business New Zealand and the Institute of Directors”.

so what does that last paragraph tell us exactly? what is the minister going to do to be this catalyst of change? shouldn't we get to hear about it, so we can be sure that the measures taken (if any) are likely to be effective?

given the research and overseas policies quoted in the press release, could we assume that she's considering quotas like norway and france, or at least greater disclosure like australia? although, as regards the latter option, all annual reports i've seen have a photograph of the board with members names listed below, so i think we're pretty much have that kind of disclosure already and it hasn't helped.

i do have to say that it was great that the minister was addressing the institute of directors, but it would have been nice if her press release included some specific policy initiatives. the full speech is here, but i can't say that i'm much wiser for having read it. it talks about the "women on boards initiative", but doesn't give much detail of what is being done. the only thing of substance i could find was reference to the ministry's nomination service, but that has been running for years and is nothing new.

so how about it minister? are you ready to take a really bold initiative like france and norway? and if not, why bother mentioning it at all?

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