BNZ scores equality prize – everyone else drops the ball

BNZ chief executive Andrew Thorburn
Women's affairs minister Jo Goodhew

BNZ  has won a prize for hiring top management women, but the rest of the country is going backwards.

On the eve of international women's day, women's affairs minister Jo Goodhew presented the inaugural United Nations "women 's empowerment principles benchmarking for change award" to BNZ chief executive Andrew Thorburn.

BNZ head of engagement Annie Brown was in New York to accept the award on behalf of Mr Thorburn and BNZ.

Mrs Goodhew says the award recognises BNZ's comprehensive approach towards tackling what the bank identified as its biggest challenge – to increase women's representation at middle and senior leadership and manasgement.

The bank has had its gender equality strategy in place for three years. 

Almost half the bank’s nine-strong executive team is now made up of women.

Adrienne Duarte is chief financial officer, Renee Roberts is chief risk officer, Louise Harvey-Wills is director of people and Shelley Ruha is director of products and operations.

So far just two of the board’s nine members are women – Dr Susan Macken and Prudence Flacks.

Mr Thorburn wants to boost the figure but says it is harder with a board, as members are appointed for a specific term.

Needs a boost

He says across New Zealand, the number of women capable of taking on a board position or an executive position needs to be boosted.

“The pool needs to be widened. We’ve got to start somewhere, and in New Zealand, it’s not just women. There has to be a real push for ethnic diversity as well, given the mix of ethnic backgrounds in Auckland.”

But a survey released in financial services firm Grant Thornton's international business report to mark international women's day reveals the percentage of women in senior management positions in New Zealand businesses has stalled at 28%, with other trends more discouraging.

Grant Thornton New Zealand partner Stacey Davies says standing still means going backwards compared with the rest of the world. 

New Zealand dropped to 17th out of 44 countries surveyed, compared with 10th out of 40 countries surveyed last year.

Ms Davies says that from other statistics in the survey New Zealand appears likely to slip further down the table over the next year.

The number of companies offering flexible hours dropped from 81% to 78% and those considering employing or promoting more women into senior management is 13%, compared with a global average of 15%.

In 2012, 26% of businesses had no women in senior management and this year the figure has risen to 30%.

Ms Davies says this is in sharp contrast to what is happening around the rest of the world, where this figure dropped from 34% to 31%.

She says countries with less flexibility tend to have a higher percentage of women in senior management.

"In the low-ranking G7 countries, 72% of businesses provide flexible working arrangements, while in China, where women hold 51% of senior management roles, only 27% of businesses offer flexibility," she says.

bcunningham@nbr.co.nz

janderson@nbr.co.nz

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6 Comments & Questions

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It is great to promote hard-working talented individuals as long as it is on merit. But why should anyone be promoted or part of a 'stratgey' just because they are female or of a certain ethnicity? 20 years ago when Thorburn was starting out would he have been so glad to hear people were getting a leg up on him because they fitted a certain profile? I think not. Easy for him to be the cheer leader now he is at the top.

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Totally agree.

Don't let the socialists/Labour/Greens hear ya, though - they think tenure is the only criteria for promotion and not merit. Hence, their slanted perception that socialism works, when in reality the only political system that has ever been anywhere near successful is the one based on an individual's merit - and not the state.

Race-based laws are excactly the same. We have One country, One race, One law for all. Reverse racism is still racism - and who needs that in 2013?

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Are you seriously suggesting that a CEO of a major bank would appoint a CFO or CRO purely on the basis that she is a woman. Is it worth considering that she may have passed the merit test too? Is it also worth considering the view that diversity breeds productivity? Or perhaps he should just surround himself with male bankers in their 40s and 50s? That'd be good!

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I will repeat myself as you have missed my point. People should get ahead purely on their merits alone. I never said 'a CEO of a major bank would appoint a CFO or CRO purely on the basis that she is a woman' you did. No he should not surround himself with men he should surround himself with people who have got there by merit alone. And no I do not agree diversity for diversity sakes, I say merit breeds productivity over diversity.

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Wake up. Most of the organisations I have worked are nothing more than boys's clubs, with the attitude " you scratch my back and I scratch yours'". Women have been outperforming men in all areas, but they still don't get appointed to senior roles. They are not part of the boys's network. It is always just man appointing other man. Salary inequality is nothing compared to this other part of discrimination that goes on in the workplace. Men feel threaten by women who speaks their mind, rather than scratch their backs.

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My response...apppoint on merit only. If you appoint on merit alone it takes all these stereoptypes you have put forward out of the picture.

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