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Lack of women in leadership contributes to ‘leaky pipeline’

Tuesday, Oct 31, 2017, by Sheryl Blythen

New research shows a fifth of our organisations have leadership teams that are more than 75 per cent male, and it’s impacting their ability to retain their talented female staff, says Diversity Works New Zealand Chief Executive Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie. The latest New Zealand Diversity Survey revealed that 20 per cent of businesses have less than 25 per cent female representation at governance and leadership/decision-making levels. The data also showed that in large organisations (200-plus employees), the number with less than 25 per cent female representation at these senior levels rises to 30 per cent. “This is worrying. These statistics contribute to New Zealand’s persistent gender pay gap, but even worse, it leaves many of our future female leaders with little to aspire to,” says Cassidy-Mackenzie. “Women who can’t see an opportunity to get to senior levels in an organisation are more likely to take the option of setting up their own business, or leaving the workforce completely.” This “leaky pipeline” effect then results in businesses losing the valuable skills and institutional knowledge these women contributed to the organisation, and a continuing lack of gender diversity at decision-making levels, she says. The survey, carried out earlier this month, showed the majority of New Zealand organisations have some women at senior levels. Women are represented at the governance level in three-quarters of all organisations and at the leadership level of 86 per cent of all organisations. “But we need a more even gender split across leadership in all our organisations. We need more women in senior levels, mentoring our aspiring female leaders,” says Cassidy-Mackenzie. “It’s not just the right thing to do; it makes good business sense. Research has shown that having more women in the senior ranks of a business increases profitability.” Other key findings from the October 2017 New Zealand Diversity Survey were:
  • Wellbeing and wellness are still the number one diversity issue for New Zealand organisations, with 68 per cent of survey respondents ranking it as important.
  • Workplace flexibility was ranked the second most important issue by respondents from small and medium-sized organisations, but ethnicity was ranked second for large organisations.
  • Aging workers was the third most important issue across organisations of all sizes. The number of businesses who reported having no strategy to deal with aging in the workplace dropped from 52 per cent in April 2017 to just 32 per cent in the most recent survey, and 61 per cent agreed their organisations value the experience of workers aged over 55.
  • Around a fifth of those surveyed identified an under representation of Māori and Pasifika in their organisations.
  • About a quarter of respondents (27%) reported their organisations had recorded incidents of bullying in the past 12 months. Bullying and harassment continue to occur more frequently in public-sector organisations (35 per cent) than in private-sector organisations (22 per cent).
The NZ Diversity Survey, which was initiated in 2013 to create a better understanding of the key diversity challenges facing New Zealand organisations, is carried out twice a year by Diversity Works New Zealand, with support from Massey University. Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley, Pro Vice-Chancellor at Massey’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences says he was surprised by the relatively low profile ethnic diversity has among New Zealand organisations.“Apart from large firms, ethnicity does not rank as a significant issue for organisations. And yet the workforce is very ethnically diverse. The concern is that employers stress ‘the best person for the job’, when in fact ethnic or gender diversity should be a consideration,” he says. Click here to read the full report

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