In Hawke's Bay Today December 9, 2017, two high profile New Zealand women have taken up the cudgels to get an equal representation of women in politics and around the country's boardroom tables.

Firstly, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is calling for stronger female representation in politics.

In the Financial Times she states, that "I'm one of only 12 women who are current heads of government.

That's fewer than 7 per cent of all world leaders. Only about 23 per cent of national parliamentarians are women," she continued.

Advertisement

Ardern said Labour planned to address this by pursuing its target of women making up 50 per cent of MPs.

"Stronger empowerment of women in the democratic process and government is vital." Ardern said politics was a place where one could make change, which she planned on doing "in our small corner of the world."

Lofty stuff, and deserving of being taken notice of, but where is her plan to do this.

You cannot force women to stand for Parliament or for that matter local councils, it is their free will to put their own names forward for election.

Will, Jacinda Ardern change the Electoral Act to make it compulsory for women to stand for election? Will she bring in a change to the act to make it compulsory for electoral parties to have 50 per cent of the candidates they put up for election to be women, spread over 120 seats?

Will she change the act to bring in special "Women Only" electorate seats, similar to the current Maori electorate seats, voted in by women only in those electorates where women have residency and are on that roll, to achieve her gender sharing ideals?

When all is said and done, it is up to the voting public who decide on who is elected and who is rejected at the poll, regardless of gender, it is by merit that they win or lose.

It will be the voting public who choose a woman over a man in the election due to their tick of choice, not because the candidate is a female or a male, but because they feel the candidate has the credentials, the acumen, the experience and the ability to do the job at hand, not just because she is a woman.

Therefore you will never truly achieve a 50/50 share by gender, seats in Parliament.

Secondly, New Zealand's first female Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley is advocating for New Zealand companies to take on board more women as directors and chief executives in their company.

She states: "Three-quarters of New Zealand's listed companies have no women on their boards, and there is only one female chief executive among the country's large public companies.

She says: "About 23-24 per cent of our listed companies now have women directors on their boards, but three-quarters of them do not." Shipley is in favour of introducing compulsory quotas or targets to ensure gender balance on boards and within executive teams.

She says: "I'm right on the border of saying, 'Look why don't we set some goals and targets, and if we don't achieve them, I think we're going to have to say, 'Should a Government in the future simply set a target by this date that has to be achieved? ' "I would not be adverse now, in three years' time, all boards having to achieve whatever… whether it's 50 per cent or 35 per cent," Shipley said.

I am sure this sort of scenario would fall nicely into the hands of Jacinda Ardern, to legislate a compulsory gender balance on the boards of directors of New Zealand companies and would also slot nicely with her desire for a gender balance in Parliament.

But should not the boards of directors also be made up of people with a skill set that qualifies them for the job. Rather than because, you are a woman?

Who these days male or female, would want to be a director of a company with the personal responsibility and liabilities that failure of the company curtails? When Bridgecorp Finance collapsed and the directors were jailed for their part in its demise, wouldn't there have been a public outcry if one of those directors to be jailed had been a woman?

Jenny Shipley's own business journey has not been all plain sailing. In December 2012, she resigned from the board of directors of Mainzeal Property and Construction, which then went into receivership in February 2013.

Two years later, the receiver of Mainzeal, BDO filed a civil lawsuit against the former Mainzeal directors, including Shipley, for an alleged breach of directors' duties. "I'm absolutely sure our directors acted properly and it's a matter now of a civil action," Shipley says.

Chris Geddis is a former company accountant for the Daily Telegraph newspaper in Napier and a local historian. Views expressed here are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's. Email: editor@hbtoday.co.nz