Women on Boards: What we can learn from Australia

New Zealand has a thing or two to learn from Australia when it comes to getting women on boards.


In May, the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Hon Hekia Parata, met some of Australia’s top business leaders to understand how dramatic changes in Australian business culture are driving a rapid increase in the number of women on company boards.


Under Australian securities exchange (ASX) rules introduced last year, companies are required to set, and report on, measurable targets for the advancement of women into senior management and board roles. Business across the Tasman is responding positively, because they see advantages for themselves in having more women in leadership.


According to Ms Cohen, the key to faster change in Australia is that the business leaders themselves see the advantages – including better productivity and improved business performance – and are pushing the change.


‘There’s a champions group of 12 business leaders – including the CEOs of Qantas, Telstra, IBM and New Zealander Sir Ralph Norris, CEO of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia – and there’s a waiting list of senior businessmen wanting to join!


‘There is also an effective mentoring programme, which involves 56 of the top chairs in Australia.’


Ms Cohen said the Ministry was currently investigating ways of seeding greater business involvement in getting women into leadership here in New Zealand.


‘Helping to establish a champions group is certainly one of the options, because what Australia tells us is that change really takes off when it is business leaders themselves that take the lead.’


‘There is also a lot that New Zealand women can do to promote change as individuals and collectively. They can use their positions as shareholders and employees to ask why the companies with which they are associated are not making full use of women’s skills, and they can join and support organisations that are working for change.


‘There is a tipping point which Australia appears to have reached.  New Zealand is not quite there yet, but we are close.  Our job is to help business see that it is in their interest to change.’

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