Women in Governance and Leadership Roles
In 1893 a landmark legislation was signed making New Zealand the first self-governing country in the world to give women the vote in parliamentary elections.
120 years later, why is it women are still a rare breed around the Board table?
According to Diane Forman (NZ Herald article ) a recent report by Harvard Business School noted the percentage of woman on boards in NZ was 7.5%, less than half the global average of 16%. Diane believes ‘women are still being locked out by the ‘old boys network’ in New Zealand’. It is recognised internationally that women on boards is an indicator of women’s progress and gender equality. From our ground breaking start in the 19th century it would appear we are now falling behind in the area of gender equality.
There is numerous research and evidence to indicate the positive impact that women’s contribution to the Boardroom can make to the improved performance and bottom line of businesses. Studies by Catalyst and McKinsey both say there is a correlation between women on boards (preferably at least 3) and improved financial performance of a company in terms of return on investment.
In an interview on women in leadership and governance, experienced Director John Palmer said he believes women bring unique contributions to business and governance roles. According to John, amongst other strengths women act more collegially, have an ability to ‘read situations’ and have an intuitive understanding of what the underlying people dynamics are.
So how do we change these statistics and get more women in leadership roles and around the board table? Diane would say that beyond getting boards to challenge their criteria and process, CEOs need to sponsor senior women executives into board roles.
For individual businesses we need to look within to identify our talent, recognise the capability of the women in our organisations and back them to broaden their experience and help develop the skills required to take those steps towards a pathway in governance.
Who are the shining lights in your organisation and what are you doing to encourage them?
by Julie Baxendine