20 Jan 2017

NZ's record on women on boards 'depressing'

10:39 am on 20 January 2017

The lack of female directors in some of New Zealand's largest companies has been described "incredibly disappointing", the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Jackie Blue says.

Man in boardroom

Information from the Institute of Directors also showed New Zealand's 17 percent rate of female directorships was worse than other western countries. Photo: 123RF

Yesterday, RNZ revealed a list of 45 companies without any female directors in 2016.

The include health giant Orion Health, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels New Zealand and the rural services company, PGG Wrightson.

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Jackie Blue told Summer Report while she was not surprised at the statistics it was still "very depressing".

"And I'm very disappointed at the very slow progress that is happening at the moment."

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Jackie Blue.

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Jackie Blue. Photo: Supplied

She said research showed diverse boards performed better.

"If we are going to ever achieve gender equality in society we need gender equality in the workplace first and that really leads on from gender equality at the board level."

Dr Blue said she questioned claims that firms in what are perceived to be male-dominated industries found it hard to find women with experience.

There was no need for all board members to have a legal or financial background, or to have an intimate knowledge of the industry, she said.

"Diversity brings diversity of thought, perspective, world views, experiences - and women absolutely all of those things."

She said firms needed to get past their own biases.

Table of board members top 45 companies have no female directors and low number of female officers.

Photo: RNZ

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