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Women in Leadership

Posted by Denise on 29 September 2016 | 0 Comments

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There’s some US based research just out by McKinsey & Company which reveals that women continue to face challenges in becoming senior leaders.  The Women in the Workplace 2016 report showed that for every 100 women who are promoted to manager, 130 men are promoted.  Women are less likely to receive the first ‘critical promotion’ to manager and are less likely to be hired into more senior positions.  What this means is that the higher you look in companies the fewer women you see, especially at senior & board levels.

So what’s the picture in New Zealand?   One measure is diversity at board level.  In 2010, only 9.3% of board members were women.  Of the top 100 companies listed on the stock exchange at that time, only three had a woman chief executive or managing director. This contrasted with state sector boards where the percentage of women at  senior & governance levels was 41%.  In 2012 a group of people came together comprising chairs, directors and senior management of some of New Zealand’s leading companies and organisations.  They formed the 25 Percent Group.  Their objective was to focus attention on the economic rational and need for greater diversity around board room tables of New Zealand.  Their goal was achieve 25% female participation at board level by 2015. 

So how are we doing?  A 2015 progress report from the 25 Percent Group showed that female participation at board level of large public listed companies had reached 20 percent.  The 2016 New Zealand Diversity Survey conducted by  Diversity Works (formerly the EEO Trust)  showed that females in the leadership or decision making team increased from 39.2% in the 2014 survey to 48.5% in 2016.  The same survey revealed that 51.6% of large companies (200+ employees) had a gender policy or programme in place, compared with just 11.4% of small companies (under 19 employees).  That difference is likely  attributable to larger companies having in-house human resources & organisation development expertise.  Small to medium sized companies tend to be more focused on employment relations and compliance issues and tap into external expertise to keep them on track. 

So it looks as though New Zealand is outperforming the USA when it comes to building its’ future female leaders.  A focused approach towards gender diversity in New Zealand is building the talent pipeline to support the progression of women from junior to senior leadership roles.  As a small country that prides itself on 'punching above it's weight'  from an economic, social and equality perspective we need to continue to 'lean in' (thank you Sheryl!) and keep our foot on the pedal. New Zealand that glass ceiling has got big cracks in it!  Let's keep pushing.  As for the US glass ceiling, let's see what happens there in upcoming weeks! 

The Women in the Workplace 2016 report identified a number of steps companies can take to further promote gender diversity:

  • They can make a stronger case for gender diversity, explaining why it matters and how it benefits everyone.
  • They can also ensure their hiring, promotion, and performance review polices are fair, and invest in training so employees know the steps they can take to promote gender diversity
  • Mentoring programmes – pairing up females with a senior leader; both women and men view mentoring and sponsorship by senior leaders as essential for success
  • They can place more emphasis on accountability and set gender targets so it's easier to track and make progress

For more reading go to:

Diversity Works:  2016 New Zealand Diversity Survey

McKinsey & Co.  Women in the Workplace

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