Gender diversity not big issue for Kiwi directors

REBECCA STEVENSON
Last updated 08:21 07/12/2012
Joan Withers
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ
Mighty River Power company chairwoman Joan Withers says while diversity is not a "top three issue", it is still important.

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Only a fifth of Kiwi directors questioned in a survey say they are worried about maintaining gender diversity.

The Deloitte Director 360: Degrees of Progress survey asked 288 directors from 19 countries their views and concerns and for the top three "key issues" for the past 12 months and coming two years. Nineteen New Zealand directors completed the survey.

The main findings of the survey showed recovery from the global financial crisis (GFC) was, and is, the biggest worry for directors here, while "strategy" ranked as the No 1 issue globally, with the GFC second in the coming two years.

The survey found almost 60 per cent of Kiwi directors said their boards had introduced diversity policies, guidelines and goals for board composition but only 20 per cent were "concerned with maintaining gender diversity".

The majority of New Zealand directors feel ambivalent about whether diversity adds value to their organisation, the report says.

Of the New Zealand directors, only 3 per cent ranked diversity as one of the three key issues facing boards over the next two years.

"Diversity for diversity's sake" was widely dismissed as unhelpful, the report says. It was valuable only if the person was right for the specific role regardless of sex, age, religion or race.

Mighty River Power company chairwoman Joan Withers said the results were surprising.

While diversity would not be seen as a "top three issue", it was still important, she said.

"There seems to be a disconnect. Companies are introducing diversity policies but not walking the talk. That is concerning."

Withers is a member of the 25 Percent Group committed to achieving diversity at New Zealand companies.

Globally, diversity was seen by nearly half of those surveyed as enhancing a board's ability to "consider issues from a wide range of perspectives".

Internationally, 2 per cent of directors picked diversity as a key issue while across the Tasman 7 per cent said it would be a key issue in the next few years.

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- The Dominion Post

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