Global Women and Champions for Change congratulate public sector, call for action from private sector

For Global Women

Thursday 20 June, 2019: Global Women and its affiliate Champions for Change congratulate the public sector and the Minister for Women, Julie-Anne Genter, for achieving equal gender representation at CEO level, and a split of 47 percent women to 53 percent men at board level.

Global Women CEO Siobhan Mckenna says it is cause for all of us to celebrate that government agencies are now just as likely to be headed by a woman as a man, and that championing New Zealand’s ethnic diversity is a focus for the public sector.

“Why does this achievement matter? Firstly, equity ensures workforces and leadership teams, including boards, are more creative, innovative and resilient – highly prized capabilities at the present time,” said Siobhan. “Secondly, fair and equal representation of women, and equal opportunity for all is a kiwi value built into our national fabric.”

Comparing with the commercial sector, according to the latest NZX diversity data (January 2019), the percentage of women directors on listed company boards increased from 19.7 percent to 22.5 percent in 2018. That percentage has been moving upwards for some years, but at a glacially slow speed.

The latest figures from the public sector show New Zealand is “once again leading when it comes to engaging women’s minds in national decision-making, just as the nation did when thousands of kiwi women turned out to vote in 1893,” according to Siobhan. “It’s gratifying that our country’s ethnic diversity is increasingly viewed as an advantage, which it absolutely is.”

Champions for Change is a group that was created just over three years ago to accelerate gender and ethnic diversity in New Zealand businesses. It includes 54 CEOs and Chairs of some of New Zealand’s largest workplaces, representing more than 110,000 employees across 39 organisations.

Westpac CEO David McLean, who is the Champions for Change co-chair, says that Champions for Change has already shown that progress in the commercial sector is not only possible, but happening.

“More than 83 percent of Champions for Change organisations have implemented flexible working policies for men and women—one of the known pathways to creating an inclusive and diverse working environment,” says David.

Champion organisations also invest in their female talent pipeline by sponsoring promising young leaders through leadership development programmes.

Its CEOs and Chairs come together regularly to have frank and open discussions about practical ways to increase the uptake of diversity programmes and policies.

PWC chair Michele Embling, also a Champions for Change co-chair, notes that last year, Champions for Change debuted its Gender Diversity Report, New Zealand’s first and largest survey of gender and ethnicity at all employment levels, from entry-level employee to board member.

The data showed that organisations within the Champions for Change group had, on average, 35.4 percent women at board level – a greater percentage than the NZX with 22.5 percent. At CEO level, the Champions group reported 33.5 percent women—almost double the comparable NZX figure of 19 percent.

In 2018, 26 Champion organisations reported ethnicity data, representing more than 60,000 employees.  Siobhan commented that the Champions for Change aims to significantly increase reporting of ethnicity in 2019.

“We need to measure both gender and ethnicity to be able to hold ourselves accountable for positive change,” she says.

“If we step back, what the data shows us is the challenge is not getting women in the front door, as there is close to equal representation at entry level; rather it’s ensuring they can climb up the organisational ladder,” says Siobhan.

The remaining question is, do New Zealand’s commercial organisations need targets, too?

David McLean says that Champions for Change has already committed to driving a 40:40:20 balance at all levels of employment across the group. This would mean that at each level of seniority within the aggregate Champions group, there would be 40 percent of both women and men, with the remaining 20 percent being of either gender, allowing for natural employment flows.

“What our Gender Diversity Report data shows is that while Champion organisations are outperforming other groups here and internationally, no one Champion organisation has, as yet, achieved 40:40:20 across all management levels,” says David.

“Gender diversity is a board level issue. When it’s prioritised, we will see greater progress for NZ,” says Siobhan. “Simply put, diverse organisations do better, and if boards are not choosing diversity, they are handing that advantage to those that do.”

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