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Women kept out of the boardroom

Written By: - Date published: 7:12 pm, March 8th, 2012 - 19 comments
Categories: business, capitalism, sexism - Tags:

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?

– Rosa

19 comments on “Women kept out of the boardroom ”

  1. Hilary 1

    Thank you. Good to see such a post on International Women’s Day.

  2. fender 2

    “This makes it hard for outsiders to get in” is the way this club likes it. Mandatory quotas is the only way to break their old boys club.

    • King Kong 2.1

      Right on. There is also a distinct lack of white runners in the Olympic 100 metres final. We have to address that…Quotas I’m guessing.

      It is not like there are no woman directors. If you are good enough you get in. Maybe if there was less whining and more effort those numbers could turn around.

      • fender 2.1.1

        Or maybe KK if there were less Alasdair Thompson types in this old boys club woman might get a better chance to contribute.

        • insider

          Didn’t he lose his job after a whole bunch of ‘old boys’ objected to his behaviour and withdrew their support for EMA Northern?

          • fender

            oh yeah you are correct, and he was a one off anomaly amongst his peers of course, tui time.

        • King Kong

          This old boys club that you talk of, do they all wear monocles and top hats whilst constantly quaffing cognac?

  3. Vicks 3

    When mentioning white males you forgot to include NAct supporters although come to mention it the silence from the normally verbose male contributors to this forum is deafening…

    • Colonial Viper 3.1

      The wealth extracting corporate 0.1% remain the wealth extracting corporate 0.1% regardless of their Board’s gender or race balance.

  4. Bazar 4

    Indeed, i completely agree. Women deserve be handed places in board of directors.

    I particularly like how only a few companies were willing to pledge that they would get a ratio of 30% as women on the board of directors

    I mean they had 4 whole years to do so. Wouldn’t be hard, just tell everyone who was in line to be a board member that if they weren’t female, they didn’t stand a chance.

    I’m sure all the men (some who would of been after it for years) would all be understanding, and none of them would resent the board members for such actions. Good thing its the EU, as in the USA they’d probably be sued over such blatant discrimination.

    If only NZ was such a leader as the EU when it comes to women’s rights. We’ve never done anything noteworthy for women, and our glass ceilings are so low that most don’t even leave the kitchen.

    Our government is also in a horrendous state. It only takes a quick glance at the IPU to see that we are near the bottom of the table with women in parliament.

    There are 22 nations that are more equal then us. Their governments had the right idea, forcing themselves to hand out seats to the better gender regardless of qualifications or popularity.

    I for one am truly disappointed with our government, of which only a mild 32% is comprised of women who represent us in an honest, best candidate wins election system.

    I’m so fired up over this, i’m going to match down to the beehive, and protest that John Key resign, that he take his stick and berry approach to politics out, and replace him with Paula Benntt

    • lprent 4.1

      Please do. Paula would be a lot easier to turf out. Nowhere as effective as a politician

      • Anne 4.1.1

        Paula Bennett for PM please… we could start off with a sweep-stake on how long it would be before she burst into a flood of public tears cos she can’t take the flak. Then Paul Holmes could write another hysterical column about how cruel the Labour Party and the Unions are to such a ‘wonderful lady’.

  5. shorts 5

    break the monopoly of the old boys network and women (and men) or competence will get the empty seats vacated privilege by sheer merit… not gender

    Equality of opportunity would see many more woman in positions of power, because they are as competent and able as any

    To force gender balance for the sake of it is bad for woman (except in the stats) imo – you’ll just get white privileged woman of little merit

  6. Foreign Waka 6

    Whilst I am all for having more women at the top, I doubt that attitude can be changed by the stroke of a pen. It is old boys network and this has not changed in the last 200 years. Why would it? Have there ever been any women other then in 1893 the 1970’s that have actively sought equality? With the latter being a lesson to all – re Ruth Richardson and Jenny Shipley, both from the farmlands of this country and looking at parallels with the “down to earth” practice of weeding out the week.
    Isn’t it so that all that was gained is taken for granted and indeed seen as negotiable? Today, most women of every strata in society take it for granted what the generations before have been fighting for and still made just inroads, no equality yet.
    Equality does not mean to become a man – equality means that a women’s need counts as much as a man. All NZ, and other countries too I may add has achieved so far is the impression that women have to be able to do as much fighting, drinking and tagging in the streets as man.
    As for boardroom positions, these should be held by the people with the best skills, regardless of the gender. As far a s I am concerned this would have to include humanitarian goal setting too.Because in the end this is not about gender this is about a better outcome for as many people as possible – children included.

  7. insider 7

    You show your naivety with this: :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”

    There is nothing amazing at all about this. If you are amazed then you are not informed. CEOs on boards is a really really common feature around the world.

    • Rosa 7.1

      Might have been loose writing but this is about CEOs sitting on the remuneration committees that decide their salaries, not the overall company boards. Definitely a conflict of interest, definitely not normal practice all round the world and definitely not a privilege that’s available to we ordinary mortals.

    • McFlock 7.2

      CEOs on boards is a really really common feature around the world.

      So are things like consultants delivering corrupt environmental impact reports, managers of struggling companies persuading employees to invest their pensions as capital but not risking their own funds, trebling food prices immediately after a disaster, and paying for financial advice that tests the boundary between “tax avoidance” and “tax evasion”.
      But I never cease to be amazed at what the abused citizens of neocapitalist societies, and New Zealand in particular, will accept as “normal” behaviour.


  8. Populuxe1 8

    Absolutely! Women have as much right to be parasitic nest-feathering screw-the-workers scum as old white men do…

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