Move over old white men

And make way for young inexperienced women to take your seats on the board.

This is what the Minister for Women, Julie Anne Genter, advocated to students at Cobham Intermediate School when they presented her with a petition for pay equity.

Women’s Minister Julie Anne Genter says old white men need to “move on” from company boards to help close the gender pay gap.

Board image Washington Falconer’s Asssociation

Ms Gender clearly believes directors are extremely well paid.  She’s implying New Zealand directorships for companies the size of Fonterra or the ANZ bank are the norm. Welcome to the real world, Ms Genter, where most directors work for small and moderate size companies with small budgets.  Directors are appointed for their experience and skills that complement existing board members and while remuneration can be minimal their responsibilities are still daunting.

Did Ms Genter enlighten these fertile young minds on the personal liability directors face if they don’t adequately perform their duties?  Directorships are not for the faint-hearted.  Health and safety, including death and serious injury in the workplace, is a board responsibility and directors can be personally fined up to $600,000 and imprisoned for up to five years.

Where others have failed, Ms Genter must have a powerful magic wand if she thinks she can convince companies to appoint more women to their boards based on gender.  As a better commentator than I said, she has rocks in her head.

The NZSX failed in its attempt to increase female participation on the boards of publicly listed companies. Diversity was included as a benchmark and consideration for listed companies in the 2012 corporate governance guidelines and recommendations. It became mandatory in 2017 for listed companies to report the number of female directors and female employees in senior management. Despite this, a substantial increase in female directors was not achieved between 2013 and 2017.

New Zealand’s publicly-listed companies have made no headway getting more women on their boards and continue to lag internationally when it comes to gender diversity.  NZX figures show that last year  only 17 per cent of directors were female, a proportion that was unchanged from 2015.

Young women do not need misguided advice from the minister to achieve parity, instead, they need to know that hard work and persistence will open doors, not preferential treatment based on discrimination of any kind.

Thankfully, companies are continuing to appoint directors with the best skills and experience for the role, be they men, women or anyone in between.


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The subject evoked in the collage is the debating of political issues with friends in a public place

Pablo Picasso
Glass and bottle of Suze (after 18 November 1912)
pasted paper, gouache and charcoal

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