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Women making 'glacial progress'

Human Rights Commission

3 April 2006

Women making 'glacial progress' in corporate leadership

Women are making only glacial progress in board appointments to top New Zealand companies, according to a major report released today by the Human Rights Commission and the Centre for Women and Leadership at Massey University.

"Almost two thirds of the top 100 companies listed on the NZSX have no women at the governance level," says EEO Commissioner Dr Judy McGregor.

The New Zealand Census of Women's Participation 2006 also reveals that women make up only 46 of the 645 directorships of the top 100 companies, and that just two companies have gender parity on their boards.

"Women account for just 7.13 per cent of corporate governance positions, up a dismal two per cent from the last census two years ago. We need to ask why women aren't on boards in the corporate sector and what we can do about it."

New Zealand lags well behind most other similar countries for gender balance in corporate governance, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Women's participation on boards for companies listed on the other two New Zealand securities markets is even more limited, with women comprising only 5.29 per cent of the NZDX and 5.74 per cent of the NZAX.

"Gender progress on the NZAX has fallen sharply since 2004 when women were 16.39 percent of boards of directors, which is a worrying trend."

The New Zealand Census of Women's Participation 2006 also looks at women's status in state sector bodies, universities, law and the judiciary, the media, trade unions, politics, the defence forces and school boards of trustees.

Dr McGregor said that ministerial appointments of women to state sector bodies and committees had reached 41 per cent, in the first ever comprehensive stocktake of the sector.

"However, gender representation on Crown companies that operate major public utilities - such as power, energy, postal services, public broadcasting and airports - has remained static in the last two years, with 35 per cent of women on their boards."

In academic life women's progress to senior positions of Professor or Associate Professor has also been grindingly slow. Women hold 16.91 per cent of senior positions, up slightly from 15.82 percent two years ago.

Report co-author Dr Susan Fountaine said: "It's disappointing that since 2004, half of New Zealand's eight universities have lost ground in terms of their percentage of senior women academics. The slight overall improvement is almost entirely due to gains by Massey University. The southern universities have made little or no progress and continue to lag well behind their northern counterparts."

The Census of Women's Participation is a bench-marking tool produced every two years. This year's report includes an 'Agenda for Change', which identifies a range of strategies to help increase women's participation in leadership roles.

The New Zealand Census of Women's Participation 2006 is available at www.neon.org.nz .

ENDS

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