Dalziel: Women’s Day, we still have a long way to go

Mayor Lianne Dalziel PHOTO: KAREN CASEY

OPINION: Today we celebrate International Women’s Day.

It is as an opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved, as well as setting new goals for the future.

With the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Gender Gap Report findings telling us that gender parity is more than 200 years away, the call for action this year has been captured by the phrase #PressforProgress.

In New Zealand, we may be celebrating 125 years of women’s suffrage in September this year, but we still have a long way to go.

In spite of a strong and growing body of evidence to suggest that gender diversity is of direct benefit to business performance, for example, women remain under-represented in senior management and on boards.

The New Zealand Census of Women on Boards, which considers the NZX top 100 boards, shows that 22.17 per centof board positions were female in 2017. Of the 614 board members surveyed, 138 were women, seven of the 100 chairs were women, and three of these companies had women chief executives.

I’m not sure what the executive teams look like across those companies, but I read somewhere that women make up just over 20 per cent of those senior management positions as well.

Does this matter? It does if you want to succeed.

Diversity is good for business – plain and simple. We shouldn’t have to claim this in the 21st century, but for some reason we constantly need to remind people that bringing different perspectives to the table creates a much better environment for problem-solving.

The opposite of diversity in this regard can be ‘group think’ – everyone looks at a complex problem the same way, applies the same logic and surprise, surprise, they come up with exactly the same answer – only what if it’s wrong or sub-optimal and there is no one to challenge the group?

There is plenty of evidence that shows companies with women on boards not only do financially better than companies with fewer women or without women at all, they also enhance an organisation’s performance and reputation.

Sometimes I meet women who don’t put themselves forward for positions, because they don’t think they have the right skill set or they think the company is looking for someone more qualified. I always encourage them to think about the value that a different perspective and set of life experiences can offer to an organisation as it tackles challenging issues. Don’t hold back, is what I say.

When I talk to businessmen about why I think it’s important to engage women at this level, they often tell me they are just as committed to gender equity, because they don’t want their daughters and granddaughters locked out of boardrooms or management positions just because they are women.

They want them to participate on an equal footing and bring all their talents to the fore. And they know it’s good for business.

So I hope International Women’s Day next year sees further opportunities open up for women as we all continue to #PressforProgress.

•Note: the city council’s draft Long Term Plan opens for submissions tomorrow. Please check out ccc.govt.nz/haveyoursay and have your say

•If you want to ask Ms Dalziel a question, email mayor@ccc.govt.nz. Put Reader’s Question in the subject line