Dame Jenny Shipley, who was the independent chairwoman of Mainzeal until she quit just weeks before it collapsed in February, has told TV One’s Q+A programme that the company’s failure led to a period of self-reflection.
“I think any failure, whether it’s losing elections or having a crisis as a chair and director, there are several tests you need to impose on yourself - whether you’ve done your best, and that’s a personal test but also a performance test; if you’ve done something wrong, you have to be prepared to be held to account, and I stand by that view; as a company director, you need to always ask yourself whether you acted in the best interests of the company. Taking employees, your contractors, your customers and clients, the law and so on. I have had to deal with that, and it’s not been easy, but I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve learnt a lot in self-reflection, but I’ve also learnt that companies do sometimes, with the best intention of the world, fail, and now all I’m doing is trying to assist the liquidator to see that whatever we can resurrect from this will assist creditors.”
Dame Jenny told Q+A host Susan Wood she had informed other boards she is a director on about the Mainzeal situation.
“Because if you’re a chair of one company, then the reputation that you carry, the benefits you bring, these are things your peers take into account. I’ve been completely transparent with them, as you would expect me to be,” she says.
Dame Jenny was speaking to Q+A about the upcoming 120th anniversary since women received the vote, and how far women had come since then. Dame Jenny says Kate Sheppard would “cheer in so far as we’ve changed most of the law, and women are equal in the law”, but would be disappointed that in some areas women’s participation was “stuck”.
Less than 15 per cent of NZ’s top 100 companies have women on their boards. She says women offer a different conversation and outlook to a board which can add value to a company.
“Diversity in a boardroom or in a Parliament means that you just have different minds, different life experience, different ways of thinking about patients or customers or voters so that when you bring that intellect, you look at opportunity and risk, and then you have it much better balanced. The boards I chair that are 50/50, we take a much broader view than the boards where I’m a complete minority still.”