Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter stands by 'old white men' comments

Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter is standing by a statement she made about older white men on company boards that sparked a Human Rights Commission complaint. 

Speaking to students at Christchurch Cobham Intermediate School on Thursday, Ms Genter said older white men on company boards should move on to make way for younger, more diverse talent.

"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," the Green MP said.

Christchurch man John Stringer personally wrote to Ms Genter asking her to publicly retract her comments, and lodged a formal complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

He claimed Ms Genter's statement was "sexist, ageist and racist, all in three words".

Ms Genter says around 80 to 85 percent of New Zealand company board members are male and many were "old white men in their 60s", Stuff reports.

Mr Stringer, a former Conservative Party board member who currently sits on the Papanui-Innes Community Board, says he was "surprised" by Ms Genter's comments. 

On Monday, Ms Genter's office confirmed they had received Mr Stringer's letter - but she stands by her initial remarks.

"That statement was that 81 percent of board members are male, that the majority of them are in their 60s and 70s, and that some will need to move on to allow for diversity and new talent.

"I agree with Simon Bridges that older men have a lot to contribute. There will always be a place for them in leadership roles."

"The point I'm making is that women, young people, and people from other ethnic backgrounds also have a lot to contribute - they are underrepresented, and we need to make space for them at the top," Ms Genter says.

"The simple mathematical reality is that if we're to have more diversity on boards then some current members will to have to step aside to let new talent rise up.

"There is strong evidence now that diversity matters when it comes to business success. A diversity of views and experiences helps avoid the pitfalls of groupthink and helps businesses to tap into new ideas and markets.

"There are a number of male directors who have been champions for this kind of change, who are helping to recruit young people and women for leadership roles. Part of leadership is knowing when to step aside and let the new talent come through."

Mr Stringer says he is "tired of the continual denigration and stereotyping of European males of older ages in politics and the media".

"We have become the whipping boys, which is somehow justified because we are seen to be in power - well she is in power... I think Julie Anne Genter is a woman of power and influence.

"I thought it was personally hurtful and reinforced a stereotype - we aren't worth anything.

"We should be encouraging women by their worth in the workplace not by degrading other groups. 

"We should all be valued regardless of our age and gender, on our experience and worth for the position," Mr Stringer says.

National Party leader Simon Bridges told the AM Show on Monday he disagreed with the minister's comments. 

"What I don't like is the virtue signalling here. It's pointless stuff. If you look at the reality of it, their Cabinet has fewer women than ours did, their front bench has fewer women than ours did.

"I'm all for positively trying to increase your diversity over time and doing the right thing there, as long as you're bringing merit through.

"They're not doing that in reality. This is just cheap, silly talk."