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Women in NZ senior leadership roles has hit rock bottom


Proportion of women in NZ senior leadership roles has hit rock bottom


Embargo: 8 March 2018

Whilst businesses globally have taken one step forward and one step back on women in leadership, New Zealand has taken two firm steps back. Globally, significantly more businesses surveyed (75% in 2018 v 66% in 2017) now have at least one woman on their senior management teams, but the proportion of the team that is female has slipped from 25% to 24%, according to Grant Thornton International’s annual Women in Business report. In New Zealand, the results are more dire, hitting an all time low of 18% since the report began in 2004 (31%), compared to 20% in 2017. What is more discouraging is the marked increase in the number of businesses with no women in senior management roles at 56%, compared to 37% last year.

Stacey Davies, Partner, Grant Thornton New Zealand says, “In 2015 when the proportion of women in senior management roles dropped significantly from 31% to 19%, we hoped this was a “blip” and we would see positive change in the coming years. We now have a four year average of 19% which suggests this is our new norm, and it’s really not good enough.

“Last year the report revealed a sense of complacency, that the “issue” has plateaued and the diversity challenge has been dealt with. Once upon a time, our global standing was among the top 10 countries surveyed – we are now ranked 33 out of 35 countries; clearly the challenge hasn’t been dealt with in New Zealand.

“There is compelling evidence of the link between gender diversity in leadership and commercial success. The current volatility in the global economy and ongoing technological innovation and disruption makes the issue more important than ever.”

Published to coincide with International Women’s Day 2018, which calls on all to #PressforProgress, the research reveals that introducing policies alone is not enough to drive real progress. A conscious effort to create a wider culture of inclusion championed from the top is needed to instigate change.

Policy alone not driving progress in New Zealand

Grant Thornton’s report investigates the role of businesses’ policy in bringing about change. The data shows gender equality policies are abundant and widespread throughout the country, with 80% of businesses surveyed adopting equal pay for men and women performing the same roles, and 78% implementing non-discrimination policies for recruitment. Measures that support working parents are also popular among businesses, including remote working (74% - which is high compared to the global figure of 40%), paid parental leave (68%) and part time work (66%).

However, there is no clear correlation between which, and how many, policies businesses have in place and the gender diversity of their senior management teams. No single policy seems to drive gender diversity.

Companies say they are motivated to introduce gender equality policies primarily to attract and keep employees (62%) and because of the vision of senior leadership (58%). Recruitment and retention are strategic priorities for businesses, and gender equality in leadership has become a core element of company branding. However, businesses say the barriers to introducing policies include the complexity of translating good intentions into practice (28%) and a business culture unsupportive of diversity (24%).

“This perhaps suggests businesses are concentrating on box-ticking, rather than actual, tangible progress. Without meaningful behaviour changes at all levels of a business, no progress can be made towards creating a real gender balance regardless of policies that are in place. The tone has to be set from the top; leaders are the only ones who can really press for progress, and they can do this by actively championing the cause to create inclusive cultures where every individual has an equal opportunity to flourish,” says Davies.

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