Having more female representatives on a company's board produces fairer gender distribution for the rest of the company, new research suggests.
A joint study by the University of Otago and Purdue University in the United States has found women holding positions ranging from key management, executives and senior managers appears to reduce workplace gender segregation.
Gender diversity around the board table was imperative to get a "great" outcome, Dunedin businesswoman Rebecca Twemlow said.
Twemlow is active in various governance roles, including being vice-president of the Otago Chamber of Commerce and sitting on the interim board of Business South.
"Women will bring a more empathetic approach to decision-making and strategy," she said.
The study, published recently in the journal Human Resource Management, used data from Australia's Workplace Gender Equality Agency, but researchers said the results could relate to New Zealand.
It found women's representation needs to exceed two board positions, or 20 per cent of the board, to be effective in increasing gender equity in roles across the company as a whole.
The results of the study could help inform any group that wanted fair distribution of roles across an organisation, report co-author Helen Roberts, of the University of Otago accountancy and finance department, said.
"The findings are particularly relevant to board nomination committees, board chairman, CEOs and organisational leaders who seek work environments that do not exhibit gender segregation," Roberts said.
Appointing more female directors had broader effects on workplace gender equity, she said.
There had been a good level of work to increase women's representation on boards, but some industries were still lagging behind, Twemlow said.
She believed the technology sector had been "early to the party" to recognise the importance of gender representation.
But some sectors were "still struggling to open the doors and have that diversity reach".
"I do think they know it is important but they perhaps do not know how to go about it in a way that doesn't appear to be a token gesture," she said.
Female directors often came up against token offers.
"You'll get a call and they will say, 'I do not have enough women or don't have any women, are you available?'
"That is not something we want to hear because you aren't being recognised for the strength you're bringing," Twemlow said.
She challenged sectors struggling to foster diversity to surround themselves with diverse organisations and people.