Women are still finding it hard going in New Zealand to get appointed to boards. The Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter wants to see this changed and is getting impatient.
She let it show recently when she referred to the makeup of most boards as "male, pale and stale". Not an expression used often in these PC days but I can understand her frustration.
She added it was time for old white men to "move on" from company boards. "Some of them need to move on and allow for diversity and talent".
I agree with her sentiments. This has nothing to do with how the males are doing their job either. It's just a fact. You'll have to look hard to spot diversity. There have been repeated requests to try to even things out but it's still not happening, no matter how often we hear the low numbers of women in New Zealand board rooms quoted.
On average women currently represent 15.2 per cent of all board positions. Experts say that once 30 per cent representation is reached, gender equality on boards will start to occur. That could take forever at this rate. Young, exceptionally smart business women are ready now.
So what's the problem? I think it's a comfort zone that's the blind spot. The males have done their job successfully, or adequately for many years.
They are in the company of those who think like them and who probably share the same values. From my observation they mostly have the same areas of expertise too. There is little exposure to "different thinking" often the spark for action and innovation.
Of course there's a difference between men and women working in governance positions. It's around behaviour and thinking.
Those responsible for making board appointments should widen their definition of "right people" to focus more on the character attributes of the person.
Have you seen the "ideal requirements" for board member positions? They're all the same.
Usually specific industry or sector knowledge is desirable but all other experience required is identical. One set to fit them all.
A male board with matching skills is not diversity. The thinking remains largely the same. Why not place less weight on specialist skills and knowledge and focus on the special character traits that many women would bring to the table. And passion sits high up the list. A word you will rarely hear escaping coming from the lips of male board members. No passion on this board thank you.
You can't manufacture passion or "motivate" people to feel passionate. Women have no problem identifying what ignites their passion. And they have a latent skill at creating a performance culture and looking for innovation. They are the ones who are not satisfied at being good at what they do. They will focus on what they can potentially do better.
You only have to look at Iceland, for example, to see what happens when a government commits to gender equality.
This was at the heart of what the minister was trying to stress about diversity. In Iceland it happened as a result of the global financial crisis.
In 2008 when Iceland's financial system collapsed the conservative government resigned.
There were protests in the streets about the abysmal handling of the economy that caused Iceland to suffer crippling debt.
An economy steered for years by male dominated boards. You have to admit there's something about Nordic women.
They came to the radical conclusion that its male dominated economy, banking system and business culture were responsible for the mess. They weren't about to let one bunch of inept males be replaced with a fresh set. Women stepped up fearlessly to clean up the aftermath.
They moved into the positions vacated by the men. Many of whom were prosecuted, including the prime minister. They brought "female values into the mainly male spheres of private equity, wealth management and corporate advice". They have taken Iceland to new economic heights by closing the gender gap.
The minister wasn't suggesting all males get the boot from the boardroom. She was pointing out the true economic value to New Zealand of having diversity at the table. There can be no argument when you look at Iceland's dramatic comeback.