New Zealand businesses are falling behind other countries in the number of women who are appointed to senior management roles, a report by accountancy firm Grant Thornton says.
Figures released from the Grant Thornton International Business Report show that over the past 10 years the average proportion of women in senior roles in New Zealand businesses has been unchanged at 31 per cent, against a global average that has increased from 19 per cent to 24 per cent.
Grant Thornton New Zealand partner Stacey Davies said: "In 2004, New Zealand was ranked fourth in the world of the countries surveyed, whereas now we are 15th. That's a big fall.
"Whereas once we were world leaders, we are now followers and looking likely to fall further behind, going by other indicators in the survey."
The report, timed to mark International Women's Day tomorrow, shows that the proportion of New Zealand businesses that have no women in senior management roles has increased from 26 per cent in 2012 to 32 per cent today.
This was going against the global trend, where there had been a decrease from 34 per cent to 33 per cent, Davies said.
The outlook for women in senior roles was also not encouraging, with just 7 per cent of New Zealand businesses saying they were looking to hire or promote women into senior management over the next 12 months.
"This is nearly half of last year's already low figure of 13 per cent," Davies said.
She said the figures were disappointing as women in New Zealand were more educated than they have ever been, yet the numbers holding down senior positions was static at best and starting to be overtaken by the rest of the world.
"In 2010, there were more female than male tertiary graduates, with 59 per cent of all tertiary graduates being women, holding 64 per cent of bachelor degrees," she said.
New Zealand was also going against the global trend in support of introducing quota systems to guarantee a percentage of women in senior management or board positions, with support dropping from 44 per cent to 38 per cent over the past year, in contrast to international support growing from 37 per cent to 45 per cent.
Recent NZX figures suggest that the gender imbalance is even more prevalent in listed companies.
The NZX's first Gender Diversity Annual Statistics revealed that among 109 companies that provided a gender breakdown, male directors outnumbered female directors by 88 per cent to 12 per cent. Company officers were 81 per cent male and 19 per cent female.
Institute of Directors chief executive William Whittaker said the business case for diversity had been proven.
However, diversity was multi-faceted and encompassed gender, ethnicity, age and skills, he said. "There is no diversity formula as all companies and organisations are different, so there is no 'one size fits all'."
Whittaker said the institute did not support legislated quota systems.
"How do you differentiate between two candidates who impress equally but differ only by gender?" he said.
"A quota regime will tend to force boards to appoint females who are not necessarily the best candidates. Is this the way we want to go?"