Stuff has a report telling us what we already know: an old boys’ network keeps women out of the boardroom in Australia and New Zealand.
This clubbiness is just one of the reasons we’re such an unequal country. A small network of white middle-class males appoint each other to the boards of their companies, then set each other’s pay. (Amazingly, in one-third of the companies listed on our stock market, the chief execs sit on the boards that decide their salary. No conflict of interest there!)
This makes it hard for outsiders to get in – as you’d expect in a really meritocratic society. It also means companies are run in the interests of a small group.
Even more incredible is how self-deluding male directors are. As the story says, “when asked how they got their board seats, most directors cited their networks”, which is what you’d expect. But “not one man” thought gender was a factor in their board appointments. Um, hello? If your networks are mostly made up of other white middle-class males, how is gender not going to be “a factor” in appointments? How blind can you be?
The survey also points out that often women at senior levels are generally better qualified than their male counterparts – so they can get on, as long as they are heaps better than the equivalent male!
Unsurprisingly New Zealand’s response is not to do anything about this, instead we’ll just ask companies to say how many women they have as directors. Apparently that’s produced a massive rise in women directors in Australia – up to, um, 12.7% of all directors. Great. A better plan comes from the European Union:
The European Union this week said it was moving closer to introducing mandatory quotas because businesses had failed to make sufficient progress in gender equality. It said at the present rate it would take more than 40 years for women to hold 40 per cent of board positions in Europe’s publicly traded companies.
Too true. Leave companies to do something themselves, and they probably won’t. How long will it take before we start forcing companies to be more representative of the people they serve?