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EEO Commissioner: women locked out of boardroom

Human Rights Commission

31 March, 2008

EEO Commissioner: women locked out of boardroom

The lockout of women from company boardrooms is undermining corporate governance, according to the New Zealand Census of Women’s Participation 2008 published today.

The 2008 report reveals that sixty of the top 100 companies on the New Zealand Stock Exchange have no women on their boards. There are only 45 women on the boards of the top 100 companies listed on the NZ Stock Market, and they add up to only 8.65% of the 624 board directorships available.

The figures are worse below the top 100 and in the two other New Zealand Exchange markets where women are 5.73% of directors of companies listed on the New Zealand Debt Market and 5.07% on the New Zealand Alternative Market where women’s representation has slumped dramatically from 16.39% in 2004.

Dr Judy McGregor, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner said,
“The lockout of women from corporate governance is mystifying at a time when corporate social responsibility and the value of diversity are popular talking points. Overseas there is much greater recognition of business benefits of women on boards.”

She said corporate New Zealand did not appear to accept evidence that boards with women made good business sense and had fallen well behind Australia, Great Britain and United States.

“The corporate sector will need a significant sea change to embrace diversity in governance as a value that in itself creates wealth.”

Dr McGregor called for better mentoring of female directors and the need for one or two board chairs to take a leadership role and show that recruiting skilled and qualified women directors from outside the current tight clubs would reap social and economic dividends.

The New Zealand Census of Women’s Participation 2008 features major new areas: women in sport, participation by Maori women, women in science and women in the police force.

The Census includes an Agenda for Change in which Dr McGregor sets out a number of challenges to promote female participation in governance, professional and public life. These include:

- By 2010 the Government keeps its promise to have statutory boards comprise 50% women
- The 60 top 100 companies on the NZSX without women on their boards make it a priority to appoint one
- The number of female judges is increased
- The State Services Commission achieves gender parity in public service chief executive appointments in five years.
- The NZ Olympic Committee and SPARC develop a plan of action to address the barriers that prevent women from entering leadership in sport at governance and senior management levels.


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