Retail, Innovation and Manufacturing reporter for the NZ Herald

NZ still lagging in top jobs for women

Global Women chair Sue Sheldon said there were still significant barriers to the advancement of women. Photo / Supplied
Global Women chair Sue Sheldon said there were still significant barriers to the advancement of women. Photo / Supplied

• New Zealand still ranked number 4 behind Iceland, Norway and Sweden on PwC's Women in Work Index.

• Compared to 2000, New Zealand has risen from number 8 to number 4; Australia has fallen from number 15 to number 20.

• New Zealand could experience a 6.7 per cent boost to GDP if its female employment rates were to match that of Sweden's.

Businesses and organisations globally are today celebrating International Women's Day, which this year is being used to raise the issue of gender parity with the theme #pledgeforparity.

Originally known as Working Women's Day, the annual celebration on March 8 is held to raise awareness of the social and political issues that women face worldwide - notably in New Zealand - workforce gender equality and the pay gap.

According to the latest NZX Diversity statistics for the 2015 year, women made up just 17 per cent of directors and 19 per cent of senior management in publicly listed companies.

Although 51 per cent of women in the public sector were in management level positions, only three per cent were chief executives - statistics that Global Women chair Sue Sheldon said were still far too low.

"There are still significant barriers to the advancement of women limiting the economic potential that gender diversity can bring to New Zealand organisations," Sheldon said.

"New Zealand still has a long way to go. Businesses are limiting their available talent pool by not currently taking full advantage of the wider skills and knowledge available from a broader range of people in senior leadership roles."

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The latest data from the Human Rights Commission showed the presence of women in senior management positions in the private sector has decreased significantly in the last four years. In 2011 women comprised roughly a third of all senior management positions in the private sector compared with just a fifth in 2015.

Sheldon said there was a growing awareness around the day and the gender issues highlighted, with a number of events and initiatives held across New Zealand, led in part by Global Women, which she said helped organise the initiatives as well as being a central point for people looking for information on gender diversity and equality.

PwC released today its fourth Women in Work Index, which ranks 33 countries in the OECD on a measure of female economic empowerment. New Zealand maintained its position at number four, behind Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

The Index reported New Zealand could experience a 6.7 per cent boost to GDP if its female employment rates were to match that of Sweden's. In New Zealand women earn 6 per cent less than men, a pay gap that is comparatively lower than the United States, where women earn 17 per cent less, and the UK's 18 per cent gap.

PwC New Zealand partner and diversity and inclusion leader Leo Foliaki said New Zealand's workforce was growing in its diversity.

Research from McKinsey & Company among others highlights companies ranking in the top quartile for gender diversity as being 15 per cent more likely to have better financial returns, with Goldman Sachs predicting in 2011 that New Zealand's gross domestic profit would increase by 10 per cent by closing the gap between men and women.

Global Women is hosting a Champions for Change summit on March 14 in Auckland to promote discussion around gender issues in New Zealand and to promote equality.

- NZ Herald

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