More women in NZ boardrooms

RICHARD MEADOWS
Last updated 07:18 25/07/2013

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Women are becoming more common in New Zealand boardrooms, with female directors' numbers almost doubling in five years.

Consultancy firm Strategic Pay's latest research found about a quarter (24.3 per cent) of directors surveyed were female this year, compared with 12.5 per cent in 2008.

The proportion of female chairs also went from 9.3 per cent to 12.8 per cent over the same period.

The figure is much higher than the oft-quoted one of about 14 per cent of female directors on NZX-listed company boards because this survey included a broader sample of public and private-sector organisations, including not-for-profits and universities.

"Over recent years the Government has been pushing particularly hard for better gender diversity over organisations it has an influence on," said Strategic Pay chief executive John McGill.

"You can say the evidence is there that they've been successful in that endeavour."

He expected more women in boardrooms in future.

"There's not only the pressure for it to occur . . . there's a larger pool of women that have the skills, abilities and desire to go on to boards of governance than there were perhaps in the past."

McGill does not support quotas, which he said could force the appointment of people without the necessary skills. "I can see why they happen as a last resort.

"I think we should just work harder to get people up to speed."

While the gender balance is improving fast, there is another glaring disparity to resolve.

Australian directors of large companies are paid close to twice as much as their Kiwi counterparts running companies of similar size.

The Australians earned a median fee of A$101,000 (NZ$117,000) compared with $66,000 here.

McGill said that was partly due to Australia's glut of mineral resources and more dynamic economy.

"It is a wealthier country and they pay more.

"We don't only see it in governance, we see it in a lot of jobs."

He also said there was a tendency for Aussie directors to sit on fewer boards and to get into governance work earlier in their careers.

The research also put paid to the myth that directors' fees were spiralling out of control.

The median $34,000 in base fees had increased only by 1.2 per cent in the past 12 months. The report, which has been running for 21 years, was based on a sample of 1436 directorships.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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