Women should consider working for the Government or going on to a not-for-profit board if they want to help their chances of being a corporate director, a top American director says.
Henrietta Holsman Fore, a director of Exxon Mobil and former director of the US Mint, said there was no one reason behind the low number of women on boards internationally.
But she said part of the answer lay in lack of experience, the people who appointed boards and because the network for women wanting to get on to boards has not been as strong or as well connected as those for men.
Fore was in New Zealand yesterday to help remedy the situation by launching a local chapter of global group Women Corporate Directors, which she co-chairs.
The organisation connects women directors around the world and provides educational and networking opportunities to improve governance and help secure board and advisory positions for women.
It was set up in 1999 and has since expanded to 45 chapters. Members must be either directors or chairwomen of publicly listed companies or on the boards of large private companies.
The New Zealand branch is being co-chaired by former prime minister Dame Jenny Shipley and former head of the Securities Commission Jane Diplock.
Fore, who has a background of private family business, said she expected to see big changes in the next two years for female board membership particularly as research showed diversity often brought higher earnings.
In New Zealand last year women occupied only 9.3 per cent of the board seats on the NZX's 100 biggest companies.
The stock exchange is in the process of implementing new rules for listed companies that will require them to disclose how many women they have on their boards and in senior management.
Tips for women wanting to get on to a board
* Get on to a not-for-profit board.
* Consider public service.
* Connect to a network of directors.
* Build knowledge of public companies, including best practices.
* Consider a board outside New Zealand first.