The statistics supporting the business case for having women on company boards are compelling:
For companies in the top 25% (of highest women’s representation on the board) the return on equity was 53% higher; return on sales 42% higher; and return on invested capital is 66% higher than companies in the bottom quartile.
Of course statistics tell only part of the story – it’s possible that these companies performed better in spite of the women on the board rather than because of them.
It’s also possible that having women on a board is a sign of the intelligence and foresightedness which results in a well run and high performing company.
But regardless of the story behind those stats it does seem strange that women make up 46% of the New Zealand workforce but hold only 8.65% of directorships on the NZX top 100. Just 45 women hold 54 of the 624 board positions available and 60 of the top 100 boards have n0 female directors.
That’s been recognised by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, The Institute of Directors and Business NZ who launched a joint initiative last night to promote the economic benefits of having more women on boards.
A lot of women are actively involved in private rural businesses. Many farms are husband and wife partnerships, so are a lot of the small businesses which support farming and Rural Women’s Enterprising Rural Woman Award highlighted some of the successful rural businesses run by women.
There are plenty of urban business women too so it’s not lack of skills and experience which is holding them back.
The April edition of Next magazine opened a story on the issue with this:
The chairman of a large Kiwi agricultural company is asked why there aren’t any women on his corporate board.
“There’s no place for sheilas in this conservative, provincial boardroom, apart from making the tea,” is his gobsmacking response.
I’d hope that attitudes have changed for the better since this comment was made seven years ago but that still hasn’t translated into an increase in female directors.
What’s holding them back?
Are women choosing not to put themselves forward or are they not being accepted when they do because, regardless of qualifications and experience, having a y chromosome makes some candidates for directorships and management more equal than others?
The Hand Mirror posted on the MWF/ID/BNZ joint initiative when it was first announced.