The Minister for Women wants older white men on company boards to move on to make way for younger, more diverse talent.
About 85 percent of the country's board members are male. Julie Anne Genter says many are "old white men in their 60s", and that's got to change.
"If we're going to improve the diversity of boards, then we will need some of the current positions vacated so there can be room for new diversity and talent."
Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Jackie Blue says Ms Genter is on the right track.
"It's only improving very, very slowly, if at all. I agree with Julie Anne Genter that we need greater diversity on our boards. It's good for business, we know there's evidence to support that."
Ms Genter got into a stoush with ACT Party leader David Seymour on Twitter over the comments. He said "all people" should be treated equally "regardless of their background", and said Ms Genter's views "lazily" showed that wasn't happening at the moment.
"I can't wait for [Race Relations Commissioner] Susan Devoy's condemnation of [Ms Genter's] comment that old, white men need to 'move on' from corporate boards."
The Human Rights Commission appeared to side with Ms Genter and Dr Blue, reposting a tweet by the latter which read: "Human Rights Act allows [positive] discrimination so underrepresented [groups] have [equal] place in society."
Ms Genter defended her comments, saying they weren't anti-men.
"All I said was that if we are going to get diversity around the board table, some of the massively over represented group will need to vacate their chairs. It's a mathematical reality. It's also good leadership to mentor others then step aside for new talent."
A Westpac-commissioned report last year said getting a 50-50 gender balance in management roles could boost the economy by nearly $1 billion.
"The research shows having more women in decision-making roles has clear benefits - for workers, for companies and for the economy as a whole," said Westpac NZ chief executive David McLean.