Long way off target for better balance

Yesterday was International Women’s Day and the theme for this year is #BalanceforBetter. The cry for better balance and representation can be argued across many fronts – race, religion, gender and so on but for today I am focused on women.

The story is good in the state sector, with women holding 45.7% of board and committee roles, and Chief Executive roles in the public service are 50% female. However, we are a long way off target across the country. As at June 2018 the New Zealand Stock Exchange listed the percentage of women directors on listed company boards at 22%. A 2017 Auckland University of Technology report found that with current progress it will take until 2030 “to close the gender gap in governance of the top 100 companies”.

For a country that was the first to give women the vote, and currently has a female Prime Minister as well as Governor-General, shouldn’t we be doing better?

When I take a look at my own sector things at the very top aren’t that great either. For ten years of my time at Auckland Museum there were no females in the senior management team. With the appointment of the first ever female Director in Auckland Museum’s history in 2007, a shift in the makeup of the senior managers also occurred. And today Auckland Museum has, to the best of my knowledge, its first ever female Board Chair as well as having an equal spread of male and female board members. The major metropolitan museums and galleries around the country all currently have male Directors – although Auckland Art Gallery and Christchurch Art Gallery are replacing recent female Directors. We also have a poor track record when it comes to appointing New Zealanders to run our most important cultural institutions.

At MTG Hawke’s Bay things are tracking reasonably well. Although I am only the second female Director in the institution’s history, four out of five managers are female and two out of five Trust Board members are female. But for an industry that’s had diversity and inclusion as major themes for over a decade, how is it not better reflected in the management of our industry leaders?

A Grant Thornton research report released last year states that New Zealand ranks 33 out of 35 countries in relation to women in senior management roles – not great for a country that likes to ‘punch above its weight’ and be seen as a leader on the world stage.

One thing that’s well known is, if people can’t see themselves (gender, ethnicity, etc) reflected in certain positions or roles it discourages them from even trying. If you only ever see men at the top table then how can women imagine themselves there?

I have no issue with men being board members and running businesses or institutions, just imagine how much more vibrant and relevant the situation would be with people at the head table who reflect the character and makeup of our country. In the year ahead, let’s think about ways we can all get the balance better.

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG
Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 9 March 2019

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