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Skills not stereotypes

18 August 2011

Skills not stereotypes

New Zealand needs a sharper focus on skills not stereotypes, says Ministry of Women’s Affairs Chief Executive, Rowena Phair, speaking to the Institute of Directors (IOD) today.

Ms Phair was discussing findings from the recent Goldman Sachs report ‘Closing the Gender Gap: Plenty of Potential Economic Upside’ which looks at how New Zealand women are utilised in the economy.

“New Zealand women are highly skilled by world standards. But, many are employed in stereotypical roles with lower levels of pay and are not following male colleagues to more senior positions.

“Male graduates earn 7 percent more than women one year after they start work and that difference continues to grow.

“The Goldman Sachs report shows there are significant gains to be made by broadening the sectors women work in, their seniority, and increasing the number of women in senior governance roles. Goldman Sachs identifies an increase of up to 10 percent GDP by adopting such measures.

“The report also suggests the rebuild of Christchurch could be assisted by women entering non-traditional fields of work.

“We know there is a positive relationship between women on boards and better financial performance. Companies with diversity around the Board table fared better during the recent global financial crisis.

“The challenge now is for employers to test their own unconscious bias which stops them employing or promoting women, and for women to push through barriers into different sectors and higher paying roles.

“This is not about being politically correct – it’s about creating a successful economy and society for all New Zealanders.

“I applaud IOD’s newly announced mentoring scheme. The scheme will increase the pool of women ready for senior governance roles and increase diversity in New Zealand’s boardrooms.

“The work the Ministry of Women’s Affairs is continuing to lead includes recommendations Goldman Sachs made in the report”.

These include:

• investigating the fields of study and career choices of young women and young men
• identifying emerging industries and ways to increase women’s employment in those industries
• working with employers to encourage more women into trades
• increasing the number of women on boards and in leadership roles.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Trans-Tasman Business Circle will host an event for key business leaders later this month to report on the Goldman Sachs findings.

ENDS

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