Positive discrimination in favour of African Americans was a political hot potato in the United States in the 60s.
You would think/hope that these days we would be a long way past understanding that equality of ability should win out, regardless of race, gender or creed.
Well, think again, and believe me; that lack of understanding still exists in New Zealand today.
There is the constant claim that we need more women around the boardroom table.
It is very hard to argue against appointment on merit and it is very hard to match that with opportunity and historic prejudice.
It is repugnant to me to state that we must have x per cent of women on boards; however, if you can't measure or target it, how do we know that times are a changing?
The irony is, in that adding more diversity to boards, you will improve company performance.
Of course the "best women" versus "any women" should matter, but then again, boards are full of very average board members clipping their retirement ticket and propping up the old boys' network.
Most of us understand that "some of my best friends are Maori" is a racist comment. Just as "some of the best board members are women" is of prejudiced mentality.
Regardless, the political pressure mounted by different factions will result in more women and more diversity.
The politics will serve as a catalyst for change. Despite the rationale, a good result will occur, eventually, and will perfect itself over time.
Theresa Gattung was quoted recently in the New Zealand Listener as saying, "... if you only had to compete with half the population, instead of all of it, wouldn't you try to ...". The point being that even if "... younger men are more comfortable with women in business because it's not an oddity to them..." why would they bend over backwards to help the competition?!
The fallout from some of Gattung's comments has astounded me. Many were respondents espousing the benefits of women staying at home and raising children, or complaining that a woman climbing the corporate ladder means neglecting families, and so on.
With very little respect, and ignoring the obvious sexism, they have missed the point.
Nobody is suggesting that stay-at-home parents don't perform a valuable task, but the point is, of course, one of choice and opportunity.
Former prime minister Helen Clark has also been quoted on Radio New Zealand as saying that "if a country tries to develop by leaving behind half its population, it will not get very far", and that just about sums it up really.
One thing is clear - that organic growth just won't cut it. We need more than a token female board member to change corporate culture and the time to watch and wait for change has gone.
Quite simply, it is time for change, time for a mature corporate business community.
And besides, it is a good corporate decision, and therefore a good business decision, to add diversity.
As one of my business partners (who just happens to be female, and an active board member of a large construction, infrastructure and roading company) rightly says: "Get over it Adam."
- Adam Davy is the managing partner of BDO, Wellington.