Gender Equity Fail: Here Are the Ministers Who Don’t Appoint Many Women

Gerry Brownlee, Murray McCully and John Key.
Gerry Brownlee, Murray McCully and John Key.

Hoping to be given a high-powered job by a Government Minister? You're in luck, provided you have a strong CV, experience in your chosen field and - this is surprisingly important - a penis.

As we covered last week, it helps to be a man if you want to make it to the upper levels of private sector leadership. Today we can reveal how handy a y chromosome is if you want a Government Minister to appoint you to a board or committee.

Figures released only to Newsworthy show that in 2014, 19 out of 26 Ministers - including the Minister for Women - failed to meet the Government’s goal of giving 45% of State Sector board and committee appointments to women. That target had already been lowered from 50% in 2011.

Prime Minister John Key is among a group of five Ministers that appointed men more than 70% of the time, while Louise Upston gave five out of six of board appointments to women in her role as Minister for Women, but only six out of 19 in her role as Minister for Land Information.

Overall, she falls 1% short of the target of 45%. 

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Jackie Blue says Ministers need to figure out how to meet their own gender equity goals.

"It's 2015, not 1915. Ministers who appoint less than 3 in 10 women to their boards must do better. They have no excuse but to do better.

"I congratulate those Ministers close to achieving equity and urge their colleagues to see them as best practice."

Overall, women make up 1093 out of 2622, or 41.7%, of Ministerial appointments to boards and committees: a figure that has barely changed for a decade.

But that stat is complicated by the fact some ministers make hundreds of appointments, and others hardly any.

For instance, Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Jo Goodhew is strong on gender equity. About 67% of her board appointments go to women. However, she’s only appointed 12 people - four men and eight women.

The Government should be thanking Health Minister Jonathan Coleman for skewing the figures. He’s made 521 appointments, more than twice as many as any of his colleagues, and 289, or 55%, of those jobs have gone to women.

If you take him out of the equation, women only got 38% of the available jobs.

On the other hand, Steven Joyce, Amy Adams and Maggie Barry have all appointed more than 220 people to boards and committees. Women took less than 35% of those positions.

Upston says she’s still confident the Government can one day hit its 45% target.

“Having women at the board table isn’t just about numbers. It’s primarily about merit, as well as better decision making, organisational resilience and the economic and productivity gains that come from gender balance in leadership."

It’s worth noting that Government only has to appoint 87 more women to boards to meet its gender equity goal, she says.

It’s also worth noting that Upston’s answer is very similar to the one she got three years ago from then-Minister for Women, Jo Goodhew, in response to a question in Parliament.

The figures are part of a wider trend.

Last year, New Zealand dropped from seventh to 13th place in the World Economic Forum’s annual report on the gender gap.

Meanwhile, a survey of 100 private sector companies shows plummeting numbers of women in senior management. Women held 31% of top company jobs in 2014. That fell to 19% this year.

Ms Blue says the drift away from increased gender equality is scary. Government should be taking the lead on turning it around instead of dragging its feet, she says.

“Gender equality isn’t a women’s issue, it’s a human issue and a human rights issue.  We need to normalise gender equality so it becomes a reality for everyday New Zealanders.

“Gender equality doesn’t just improve the lives of women it improves the future of entire generations.

“There is growing evidence that gender balanced boards function better and are good for business. Government ministers have a real opportunity to lead by example."

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Jackie Blue will be on Newsworthy tonight at 10.15pm.