Simon Bridges says older men in positions of power have "a lot to contribute" and shouldn't feel pressured to quit.
Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter said at the weekend 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.
Around 80 to 85 percent of New Zealand company board members are male. Ms Genter doesn't like that many of them are also "old white men in their 60s".
Mr Bridges told The AM Show on Monday it was a "silly statement".
"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."
He said it was "unlikely" a National MP would espouse similar views, but former National MP Jackie Blue - now the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner - backed Ms Genter.
"It's only improving very, very slowly, if at all," said Dr Blue. "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."
Mr Bridges disagreed.
"I don't think it's good to go negative about a segment of society - older white men - who are actually performing, and who this Government appoints every day to something... Older men have got a lot to contribute."
The Human Rights Commission retweeted Dr Blue, appearing to side with Ms Genter, who denied her comments were anti-men.
"I wasn't being negative. I was just stating a fact. The boards in NZ are dominated by one demographic group. If we are going to increase diversity on boards, some will have to move on. Never said they were bad - just over-represented," she tweeted.
The gender pay gap is presently 9.4 percent, according to the Ministry for Women.