New Zealand's largest in-depth analysis of ethnicity in the workplace has revealed top level decisions are predominantly being made by people of one ethnic group even though New Zealand is one of the world's most multi-cultural nations.

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The second diversity report, published by the Champions for Change, surveyed 69,000 employees on ethnicity and found on average just 18 per cent of top three tier company roles are held by non-New Zealand Europeans.

Census data from 2013 shows non-New Zealand Europeans make up 26 per cent of New Zealand's population and they are a growing group of people.


The diversity report showed at a board level there were no directors that identified as Pacific Island or Middle Eastern/Latin American/African and only a small percentage which said they were Maori or Asian.

At the key management and general management levels there was a greater spread of ethnicities but New Zealand Europeans represented 80 per cent or more of the roles.

But for non-management positions New Zealand Europeans made up 60 per cent of workers far less than the 74 per cent population base.

Champions for Change is a group of more than 50 CEOs and chairs committed to promoting diversity in leadership.

Its members include Fonterra, Foodstuffs, Air New Zealand, Auckland Airport, the major banks, power and lines companies, Auckland Council, AUT University as well as major legal and accounting firms.

Michele Embling, co-chair of the Champions for Change, and chair of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, said it had not been surprised by the findings but tracking it would allow members to increase the diversity of their leadership teams to better reflect New Zealand's society.

It had been difficult to collect the ethnicity data with one in five people not answering the question.

"Our data is less than perfect." Embling said it would be working to improve its ethnicity data collection next year but did not have any targets at this stage.


The second diversity report also revealed an improvement in the number of women on boards and in management.

Year-on-year comparisons for the 26 organisations which took part in both reports found women on boards increased from 35 per cent to 39.4 per cent.

While women in key management grew from 32.4 per cent to 34.1 per cent and other executives roles rose from 29.9 per cent to 31 per cent.

The group also had more members join this year with 39 organisations signing up and employees measured rising from 83,000 to 113,000.

Of the 39 participating organisations in 2019, women represent more than 37 per cent of board members and 34.6 per cent for executive officer roles (Key Management Personnel, or KMP).

That compares to NZX-listed companies which have 22.8 per cent women on boards and 23.5 per cent in executive roles.

Champions for Change co-chair David McLean who is also chief executive of Westpac New Zealand said the results showed progress was possible when leaders make it a focus.

"Our target is 40:40:20 for gender balance on boards, so it's great to see us getting so close," he said.

Embling said it also showed what gets measured gets done. She said it was really happy to see demonstrable progress from the original group and thrilled to have others join the organisation.

The report also reveals the individual company data for the first time and Embling said she had been delighted that members had agreed to share that information.

"If we want change there is nothing like sunlight."

Embling said there was still plenty of room for improvement and organisations had to make sure the numbers of women were sustainable.

"They will get churn - so it's about what is the succession plan."

That was about making sure there were women coming through from the grass roots.

Champions for Change has also launched a pilot to measure the gender pay gap of 21 organisations.

This will measure the median pay of women against the median pay of men within an organisation which typically shows a big gap when there are more men in the executive ranks.

Embling said the pilot would use a similar method to Westpac's recently released research which found the bank had a whopping 30 per cent gender pay gap.

Siobhan McKenna, chief executive of Global Women, which is convened and co-ordinates Champions for Change said: "Closing the gender pay gap is an important quality measure for New Zealand society."

The results of that pilot will be released next year.