It makes business sense to get women and younger people in top roles
Business leaders are being told they must drive the change if they want to see more women at the top of the infrastructure and finance sectors.
Spark chief executive Simon Moutter said, over his 30-year career, he had seen more diversity of gender and age in the telecommunications sector.
But for change to take place, it has to come from the top, he said.
"The culture of the organisation largely reflects the attitudes of the senior people," Moutter said.
To bring diversity to the higher positions in a workplace, leaders must look to hire fresh and diverse talent, he said.
"Our market is extremely diverse and it's just obvious we need to have a team of influencers and leaders that largely reflect the market."
PricewaterhouseCoopers NZ partner, chairwoman and Global Women board member Michele Embling said having a target or goal for change in the workplace could make it more likely to be achieved.
Embling said when she started her career, there were no female role models in her industry. All partners in accountancy firms were male.
While it has changed, she said, it has not changed fast enough.
She said boards, investors and customers were becoming more focused on diversity.
"Action has to be taken at the top level. Younger staff also want to see themselves reflected in the company and see opportunities they can grow into. The world's a big place and if they can't find what they're looking for they'll go elsewhere," Embling said.
Moutter said one of Spark's approaches to tackling diversity had been a focus on getting young people into leadership roles.
Since it made the decision to include more younger people in higher positions, Spark has dropped its average working age to 40 years.
"We're intervening to make a change. We're not New Zealand's shining example, but we're a big work in progress.
"We do it for two reasons, because it's the right thing to do and this is a society where everyone has the right to have equal opportunity, and secondarily we run a mass market business in a fast changing world and we need to remain connected to it," Moutter said.
Embling said businesses had shifted from the mentality that diversity was morally good, to understanding it made good business sense.
"Every business has its business imperative. More perspectives translate to more diverse thinking, giving more solutions to problems, innovation and outcomes," Embling said.
She said PWC hired graduates from different faculties, including engineering and architecture, to add diversity to thinking
GSK NZ managing director and Global Women board member Anna Stove said businesses that had been successful in driving change had made it their personal mission.
"Once the vision of an inclusive culture has been articulated and best practices have been put in place, a chief executive's most important role is to set the tone for the organisation’s culture by demonstrating a commitment to diversity and inclusion," Stove said.
Stove said her organisation has made flexibility a focus to accommodate different needs.
"Work is something you do, not somewhere you go," Stove said.
Moutter will be speaking at the Global Women 1 Day for Change summit next month.
Registrations for Global Women's 1 Day for Change summit on September 19 are now open, and places are filling fast. Find out more, view the speakers and buy your ticket at http://globalwomen.org.nz/1dfcnz