Men rule New Zealand's corporate roost, with women occupying fewer than half the board positions in leading companies, a new survey has found.
A Human Rights Commission Census of Women's Participation reveals 60 of the 100 companies listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange have no women on their boards.
Of the 625 board directorships available, 8.65 per cent were held by women, though that's an improvement on the 2006 figure of 7.13 per cent.
The survey results showed corporate New Zealand did not appear to accept evidence that boards with women made good business sense, Equal Employment Opportunities commissioner Dr Judy McGregor said.
"The lockout of women . . is mystifying at a time when corporate social responsibility and the value of diversity are popular talking points."
New Zealand had fallen well behind other developed countries such as Australia, Great Britain and the United States, which all had a greater involvement of women in top corporate roles, she said.
In other corporate companies, 13 directors from the New Zealand Debt Market were women, out of 53 branches nationwide. The lowest percentage of women in a director role was with the New Zealand Alternative Market, with 5.07 per cent.
Dr McGregor acknowledged the need for greater equality and balance in the public and private sector in particular, where the appointment of women in top New Zealand corporate companies was "dismal".
"The corporate sector will need a significant sea change to embrace diversity in governance as a value that in itself creates wealth."
Dr McGregor said better mentoring of female directors was needed. Also, one or two board chairs needed to take the lead and show that recruiting skilled women directors from outside the current "tight clubs" would reap social and economic dividends.
* BALANCING ACT
The Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner wants:
50 per cent of women on statutory boards by 2010.
Women board members soon at the 60 top 100 companies on the NZSX without them.
The number of female judges increased.
Gender parity in public service chief executive appointments in five years.