New Zealand lags behind in appointing women as company directors

New Zealand is lagging behind other countries when it comes to appointing women as company directors.

Just 18 percent of all directors on boards of listed companies are female, although the good news is that the gender pay gap is getting smaller.

Dianne McAteer sits on seven boards. It's her full time job and she says it's no longer a boys' club.

"Certainly not stale, pale and male, a really good mix of energy, skill base, gender and age," she says.

But NZ still lags behind Australian companies, where 25 percent of directors are women. In the UK it's 26 percent.

However, the pay gap is narrowing, halving from 21.6 percent to 9.9 percent in 2 years.

According to Institute of Directors chief executive Kirsten Patterson, "What this actually means is that we are starting to see more female directors coming through onto the larger and higher paying commercial boards, not just focussed on the not-for-profit and lower-paying end of the market."

The push is on to get not just women but all sorts of people onto boards.

Auckland Airport chairman Sir Henry van der Heyden says there are three women on airport's the board, a lot different to his first appointment in the 90s.

"I would say you could throw a blanket over all the directors because everyone came from the same background, had the same view, and the decision-making became very narrow," he says.

But the pace of bringing diversity onto boards is disappointing. The number of women has increased by just 1 percent since last year.

Sir Henry says, "I thought it would have moved much, much more than that because there is a lot of research that shows diversity in its widest context actually adds to the organisation."

Recruiting directors can be challenging. The average pay per job is $40,000, and then there's the legal liability.

Whether it's a big company or a not-for-profit, bad decisions could cost a director their house or even land them in jail.