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Lack of female quota culture harming company performance

Lack of female quota culture harming company performance

April 14, 2014

New Zealand’s low proportion of female board members on large listed companies is solidifying the glass ceiling for women, a University of Canterbury gender quality expert says.

The 2012 New Zealand Human Rights Commission census of women’s participation report found women held a mere 14.75 percent of private sector New Zealand Stock Exchange (NZX) 100 directorships.

Statistics recently released by the NZX for 109 listed companies indicate this percentage may have declined slightly, with just 12 percent of directors being women.

Canterbury Associate Professor Annick Masselot says that New Zealand approach lacks positive measure such as a quota aimed at getting more women onto private sector boards.

``By contrast, in the public sector, where government has actively appointed women, a total of 40.5 percent of ministerial appointees to state sector boards and committees are women.

``The introduction of quotas in New Zealand is a taboo topic. It has been argued that women do not want these jobs, are not qualified, nor experienced enough to be on company boards and that possibly such positions are incompatible with motherhood.

``However, gender quotas do not automatically imply that a female applicant can be appointed to a position over a more qualified experienced male applicant. Most of the New Zealand knee jerk criticism of quotas is based on the idea of a man-ban. In reality and counter intuitively, it is the status quo that is actually working against meritocracy.

``New Zealand has legal basis for taking action and moving forwards in this area. There are also examples abroad of various ways of applying gender quotas in company boards, ranging from hard legislative measure with sanctions like Norway to soft self-regulation as in Australia.

``So why should we care if New Zealand ever gets over its fear of gender quota? The global financial crisis arguably caused by the actions of some very white male boards of directors has had an impact on all people, not just on men.

``New Zealand is losing out on some talented women. Gender quotas are becoming more common in Europe but also in Australia and even in Asian countries such as India and Malaysia. These countries are making the most of the talent pool.

``The literature provides an element of support for gender quotas, with several studies finding that having women on boards leads to an improvement in financial metrics compared to companies with no female board members.

``Women represent over 60 percent of graduated students in New Zealand universities. A Westpac survey this year found 55 per cent of women aged 19 to 29 aspire to be a general manager, head of division or a chief executive which shows that there is an apparent desire by women to reach high positions in their chosen field of employment.’’

Associate Professor Masselot is conducting a comparative study on corporate quotas across the European Union, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

Ends

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