Media release – 11 March 2015 EMBARGOED
NZ Business receives prestigious UN Leadership Award
Sovereign CEO Symon Brewis-Weston has become one of only five CEOs around the world to be recognised in 2015 by the United Nations (UN) for his progressive approach to workplace diversity and community engagement.
Brewis-Weston, who is only the second New Zealand CEO ever chosen for the honour, received the 2015 Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP) CEO Leadership Award at the UN headquarters in New York City on March 10, where Hilary Clinton provided the keynote address.
The WEPs is a joint initiative of UN Women and the UN Global Compact aimed at empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors.
The UN Women National Committee Aotearoa New Zealand works in partnership with the NZ Federation of Business and Professional Women, the Human Rights Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunities Trust (EEO Trust), to encourage NZ businesses to sign on to the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs).
WEPs NZ chair, Sue Kedgley, says she is delighted to see a New Zealand company and signatory of the NZ Women’s Empowerment Principles, leading the way in gender equity and receiving international recognition for doing so.
“This award will send a clear signal to other businesses that their businesses will only be enhanced if they actively embrace gender equity and employ more women at all levels of their organisation. We congratulate Brewis-Weston and his team at Sovereign for raising the bar and setting the benchmark for leadership on gender equity in the workplace.”
Brewis-Weston joined Sovereign in March 2013 with a clear purpose to “shake up the insurance industry in New Zealand” in gender equity and other areas.
Over the past two years, he has addressed diversity and gender imbalance, established a committee to lead diversity and inclusion initiatives focused on gender balance, cultural diversity, generational diversity, flexible working and support for the LGBTI community.
Some of the resulting successes have included a reduction in the gender pay gap, which is now sitting at 4% (compared to the national average of 9.9%), and an increase in female representation on the executive leadership team, which has grown from 18% in 2010 to 45% in 2014.
Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie, Chief Executive of the EEO Trust, says that Brewis-Weston’s commitment is inspiring and as a leader who walks the talk on gender diversity, he is a true champion for change. Something that Mr Brewis-Weston himself says is not happening fast enough.
“When the majority of New Zealand’s university graduates are women but only 14% hold directorships in the country’s top 100 companies there is something very wrong.”
On the subject of the much talked about business case for diversity, the evidence from Sovereign is compelling.
“As diversity has increased we’ve enjoyed the benefits of new skills, competencies and experience. We’ve got fresh perspectives that increase our ability to innovate and I’ve seen us become more adaptable and ready for change as a result. The financial services industry is traditional and slow to change. We are showing what is possible by making our workplace more reflective of the real world in terms of age, gender, experience and culture.” Says Brewis-Weston.
Both Cassidy-Mackenzie and WEPs Chair, Sue Kedgley, hope that this success will ripple out, and that over the next few years all New Zealand businesses will signal their commitment to gender equity by signing up to the Women’s Empowerment Principles. For more information visit: weprinciples.org
Notes to editors
About UN WEPs NZ
The WEPs were launched in New Zealand by the Governor-General, the Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae on the 13 February 2012.
There are currently 46 businesses in New Zealand that have committed to embedding WEPs in their organisation and improving gender equity and empowering women in their workplaces.
There are seven key UN Women’s Empowerment Principles, visit weprinciples.org
About the EEO Trust
The Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) Trust is a national body mandated by government to provide support to employers around the issue of equal opportunities and diversity in the workplace. We assist employers by introducing and managing proven EEO thinking and practices that encourage diversity by promoting the recruitment and development of people on the basis of merit and generates awareness of the business benefits and rewards of an inclusive workplace.
As part of their wider remit and as a key partner of the UN WEPs NZ, the EEO Trust act as the secretariat for the UN WEPs committee.
For more information contact:
Emma Edgar, Communications Manager on 021 674443