Rachel Smalley says the corporate world is full of capable women who aren't getting the opportunity to rise (iStock)

Rachel Smalley says the corporate world is full of capable women who aren’t getting the opportunity to rise (iStock)

Now, we have spoken about this a lot. Diversity in the workplace, but chiefly around the boardroom table.
Of our top NZX companies, some 80% have less than 30% women directors on their boards. Some 39 boards are entirely male. And today, the Institute of Directors is calling on NZX companies to set a target to improve that situation.
Diversity, they say, is critical to maintaining a competitive and vibrant economy. And it is. Of that there is no doubt.
Look at the UK where they put targets in place for the top listed companies on the footsie, and slowly, as those companies achieved the target of 30% of women, they all, without question, recorded an improvement in business performance.
However, here is my issue. I don’t think the issue is diversity. I think the issue is gender equality.
Appointing women as company directors doesn’t achieve diversity. It achieves equality. It achieves gender balance. Women don’t make a situation more diverse. Women bring balance. And so I think it’s too easy to hide behind this term ‘diversity’. It’s an issue of gender equality, plain and simple.
There are those today who will email me or they’ll post on facebook or twitter that I’m wrong and that we should only appoint women to boards on merit. And so what is the insinuation? The insinuation is that we don’t have enough women in the corporate world who are capable of filling these roles.
Well, that’s absurd. In fact, it’s worse than that. It’s bullshit. Plain and simple. I don’t buy it.
Our corporate world is full of smart, savvy, professional women who would greatly enhance any board in any sector. It’s just that the process of appointing people to boards is flawed.
If you’re a CEO or a chairman, don’t palm this issue off to recruitment companies or your hr department. Chances are your hr department will be run by women anyway, so you’re making this a woman’s problem.
And recruitment companies will take the easiest route. Always. They’ll go with the status quo.
So own this yourself. Shoulder the responsibility of bringing about change yourself.
The desire for change is there. I know this because of the CEOs and the Chairmans I have spoken to – all male – they all want to bring about change but while the intention is there, the outcomes aren’t.
So that’s the challenge. Enough hot air. It is unacceptable that 32% of our listed companies have no women directors on their boards.
Yes, change takes time, and change doesn’t come easy – but for the good of our economy, and to provide a pathway for young professional women who are coming through our universities, change has to happen.

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