Push for more female directors

Push for more female directors

The Institute of Directors (IOD) says we're lagging rather than leading when it comes to board diversity, and it hopes the launch of its five-step guide will ignite change.

IOD chief executive Simon Arcus says the first two steps will get board members to think about inclusive culture, and the final three steps are about getting boards to think about metrics.

Mr Arcus says boards need to lift their game when it comes to diversity, in order to maintain a competitive and vibrant economy.

In 2015 only 17 percent of directors on NZX-listed boards were women, compared with 21.5 percent in Australia and 26 percent in the UK.

Of those companies that do have women on their boards, the numbers are dismal.

Of the 122 top NZX companies, 93 have a board that's more than two-thirds male.

Thirty-nine of those businesses have no female directors at all.

Mr Arcus says it's been proven that companies with a higher level of diversity perform better financially, and he is urging boards to aim for woman to make up 30 to 50 percent of their directors.

Westpac chairperson Jan Dawson is first woman to lead the board of a major New Zealand bank.

She's welcoming the guide, but says it's now up to companies to act on it

"It'll only work if people look at it and use it practically. If people don't action something it's still just words."

Diversity Works NZ -- formerly the Equal Employment Opportunites Trust -- agrees.

"Libraries and organisations have lots of publications and stuff that sits on shelves. That would be my only question -- how often are these guides going to get used?" says Diversity Works NZ chief executive Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie.

The Institute of Directors says the guide is only meant to act as a starting point, and hopes the approach will extend beyond gender to include age, race and cultural diversity.